My horse had a nail in the bottom of his foot, and I pulled it out. Someone said I should have left it in until the vet or farrier saw it in there. Why would it be better to leave it in? Couldn’t that just make the injury worse?

People are naturally inclined to want to remove a penetrating object found in a horse’s foot, but doing so can make it much more difficult for your vet to assess the extent of the injury. When a horse is found with a penetrating object in the foot, most vets recommend that you stabilize the object, but leave it in place, as they want a chance to examine it and possibly x-ray it while it is still in the foot. Diagnostic imaging is truly worthwhile when it comes to puncture wounds, as it allows the vet to see exactly where and how deep the object has penetrated, and whether or not any underlying structures are involved.

If you are leaving a penetrating object in place until the vet comes, you definitely want to stabilize the object to prevent it from being pushed further into the foot. This can often be accomplished by wrapping the foot with some sort of bandaging, but maintaining a space around the object. If the object is on the bottom of the foot, taping a roll of duct tape or something similar to the foot so that the object is in the centre of the roll can work in some instances. Once the object is stabilized, keep the horse in a clean, dry area and encourage him to remain as quiet as possible until help arrives.

However, if the vet cannot get to you within an hour or so, or you think the object will get pushed in deeper if you leave it in place, it might be necessary to remove it. If you can get photos to your vet before making that decision, that is a good idea. If you do remove the object, draw a circle around the spot where it penetrated before you pull the thing out, as the tract may close up and be hard to find afterward, especially if it is in the soft, elastic tissues of the frog. Try to make note of the angle of penetration (again, take pictures if possible), and make sure to keep the object to show the vet.