I often hear people, and see people online saying ‘my horse is footy’ but the other day I was asked a rather insightful question on the facebook page in response to a meme… What do you mean by ‘footy’?

‘Footy’ is a term we use a lot in the UK (sadly) and I have to admit, if anyone ever describes their horse as footy, I usually ask them that very same thing. What do they mean when they say footy?

When I was putting the meme together, I questioned myself, whether I should use the term, but reasoned that everyone used the word so much, they must know what it means (even if it does mean something different to each person). And – you know – word space is limited in a meme!

What does ‘footy’ look like?

It’s a discomfort in the hooves, usually in all 4 feet, though it tends to be more obvious in the fronts. It’s low grade lameness, not restricted to just one foot. Horses might show any combination of the following

• Discomfort over certain surfaces, and look sound as a bell otherwise.
• Shuffling when turning
• Rocking back on hind legs when turning
• Lameness on a circle, but totally fine in a straight line
• Very quiet hoof landing
• Shortened stride
• Excessive heel first landing (most people wouldn’t include this, but I would if I was being really strict)

If you’re seeing more pronounced lameness than I’ve described above, I hate to be the one to tell you, but you’re beyond ‘footy’ you’re lame

We use the term ‘footy’ as an abbreviation of ‘footsore’.

Which I realised, as I was writing my response on facebook, is fairly worrying in itself!

Abbreviations are used usually when a term is so common it becomes laborious to use (spell or pronounce) the long version. Or to give something a nick name.

There’s 2 main reasons to give something/someone a nick name.

  1. you love them/it and it’s a term of affection or
  2. you’re undermining them or trying to downgrade their importance in some way.

Out of those reasons, we can rule out affection. (Anyone who loves horses being footsore, can please use the back button in their browser and never darken my blog again!)

So we’re left with using the term ‘footy’ because:

(A) it’s so common how could we possibly manage saying ‘footsore’ that frequently!
(B) because we’re trying to downgrade the significance of what we’re talking about.

It’s not uncommon for a horse to suffer a bit of footsoreness, on the odd occasion, but more than that, I think we’re using the term ‘footy’ to make it sound less serious and less frightening than the full word ‘footsore’.

I mean, footy sounds almost cute doesn’t it!

Here’s what concerns me… We use the term footsore to be a less intimidating way of saying ‘your horse has mild laminitis’.

So footy = footsore = mild laminitis = on the road to laminitis = not where you want to go!!!

How many times do we need to downgrade the issue before we’re comfortable with it? And should we be using friendly terms to make ourselves more comfortable with the issue anyway? Should we perhaps just man up and deal with it?!?

From years of working with clients, I’ve found it’s beneficial to use a variety of terms. Some clients would be so stressed out by the idea of their horse having mild laminitis, they’d spend all their energy worrying, to the point it would be totally counter productive.

Generally, those same clients would bend over backwards and do whatever it took to increase their horses comfort, so dealing with a ‘slight touch of footiness’ is absolutely fine.

Some clients would reason that a footy horse would be fine and comfortable in the field as its soft, so it’s all ok to turn them out and ignore the problem. Clearly – that’s not really the best way forward, so breaking out the big L-word is necessary! (erm Laminitis, just in case you weren’t sure which L-word)

Some people do the same thing with laminitis. I was at a seminar recently where a vet was talking about this very issue. He was baffled by how owners seemed to say things like ‘oh it’s just a touch of lami’ when really they should have been saying ‘MY HORSE HAS LAMINITIS!’

I get that with long term laminitics it can be a very long and hard road. There are always going to be bad days, and if you treat every bad day like a disaster, you’re going to drive yourself to an early grave.

Being stressed out rarely helps solve a problem, in my experience it’s lack of understanding of the problem that’s the biggest cause of stress.

I guess, it’s not so much the words you use, but your understanding of those words, and the actions you’re taking. ‘he’s a bit footy today’ is fine if that’s your way of acknowledging that you need to take action and tweek (or totally rearrange) your horses management.

It’s not fine if it’s your way of pretending everything is fine and it’s all going to get magically better if you stick your head in the sand.

In next week’s blog I’ll cover the reasons why footsoreness, mild laminitis, or low grade laminitis – call it what you will, happens in the first place.

If you need to make your horse’s hooves more comfortable FAST, then I recommend therapeutic pads. If you want to know more about them, there’s a guide for using and fitting therapeutic pads in the free resources of the Hoof Geek Academy

Do you use the term footy? Has this article changed how you feel about it, or changed your understanding of it?

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below


Laminitis Warning Signs

Laminitis can affect any horse...

Does your horse suffer with Foot Soreness, Persistent Hoof Infection, Wall Cracks, Flare, or Underrun heels?

These problems can be signs of low grade laminitis. Inflammation (laminitis) in the hoof can cause deformity and soundness issues. Trying to fix the hoof without identifying and addressing the inflammation feels like pushing mud uphill.

Do you know what to look for? We discuss 35 different early warning signs that inflammation is affecting the hoof, explaining anatomy and function, what laminitis is, how it affects the horse and hooves and practical things you can do to address the problem without losing your mind!

About the author

Debs is a practicing Equine Podiatrist with over 15 years experience, author, and educator.

She’s here to show you how to simplify your horse’s management painlessly so you feel in control and have a straightforward system that works for you.

When she’s not working you can find her playing with her own horses, watching geeky sci-fi or baking epic cakes.

  • So maybe leg sore would be a better descriptor? Or short-strided? Or off? Or not right? I do use footy (or footie) as a short cut, because I don’t really know what’s going on and am trying to figure it out.:0)

  • Yes, I use the term “footy” however I also have a good understanding that it is an indicator that something is wrong in the foot. I would argue against that all horses who are footy have laminitis (sub clinical or otherwise). Stone bruises, corns, overgrown bars etc can all cause foot pain.

    What does drive me round the bend is contracting laminitis to lami; it totally detracts from what is, in essence, a life threatening condition.

    • yes I’d agree with that. I think footiness has some level of inflammation to it. So really any ‘he’s just a bit footy’ statement could equally be ‘he’s just a bit lami’ or more accurately ‘he’s suffering with a low lever of laminitis right now’. All statements describe much the same thing, but have a very different effect on what action is taken.

  • Debs, do you think you can send me this? I’d have to make some changes in the use of naming Facebook, or do you have another article I can use that deals with hoof care in general-barefoot trimming? I would also be able to list the books you have on sale at Amazon if you send links with an article. Would love another one on nutrition too. I’m still trying to go with “The Hoof And I”book-pun intended! I can IM my e-mail address to you and I can now print atachments from e-mail now. Best from me!

  • im the one who says “he is lame again”, and straight into care mode.. not keen on “footy” sounds silly and yes, “in denial”.. my boy has never been shod but also has always struggled with stones so I know the difference when he is in pain with laminitis.. poor boy, he is kept all year round as a laminitic.. to me its serious and I don’t like him to suffer because of something I did or didn’t do..

    • I tend to use lame too, though when you have a horse who has EMS or something that causes them to be more sensitive on some days it is tempting to use a term like footy, it just makes things feel less overwhelming. As long as action is taken it’s all good. I’ve heard footy to describe horses where I might have used the term ‘crippled’ and that’s where I worry.

      It sounds like your boy is in good hands 🙂

  • I understand your meaning but haven’t met up with enough fellow barefooted to have seen others struggling with mild laminitis. But when I use the term to describe my horses “ouchiness”, I believe it’s because his feet have never achieved the full transition to “rock crunchers” so feels the stones through his thin soles (he’s retired now so doesn’t leave his field much nowadays).

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