I'm a new horse owner, my gelding is 17 and had been a pasture ornament for at least a year. He has great feet and we've been doing a lot of riding. He seemed a little "tender" at times when on gravel, but I had the farrier look at him and he said he wasn't tender, just finding his footing and even with shoes we'd experience that.
I took him for a trail ride last Monday for a couple hours, all on gravel roads though I tried to keep him off gravel whenever possible. He had only been on soft sand and pasture. I had him trimmed Monday after our ride, but it was very minimal, just shaping and I wanted his hooves looked at because we had SO much rain and horses were coming up with abscesses and thrush like crazy due to the fact it would not STOP raining all month.
I can still ride Whiskey in the arena and he does fine, no sign of tenderness and perfectly willing to do all gaits, but walking across the yard on the driveway on the gravel he seems very tender on his right front hoof. I've been careful when picking it out, but he does try to pull that one away from me, there is no odor or heat and everything looks perfectly normal. My question then is:
1. Could he have a bruise?
2. Does he just need time to toughen up his feet or should I consider shoes?
3. At what point do I get someone back out there? What should I be looking for?