Horse Health Tips For Students includes information for our students about common horse health care issues. These posts are to bring awareness to horse welfare issues - always ask your veterinarian for advice and treatment protocols for your own horse!
The muddy conditions this spring caused many horses hooves to become very soft. The clay soil then dried quickly, creating rough, rutted and pitted surfaces. The horses hooves did not dry out as fast as the soil, meaning the horses soft hooves were walking on the hard, uneven surfaces. This has resulted in a few abscesses showing up in our horses feet.
Abscesses can seem very scary the first time you see them because a horse will suddenly become severely lame.
That is the first clue it might be an abscess. You can evaluate whether the lameness is coming from the foot by checking for heat, increased digital pulses and testing the hoof with hoof testers. It is a good idea to ask your farrier and vet for help with diagnosing an abscess.
Abscesses are caused when bacteria is trapped in the hoof, causing pressure to build up. This might be the result of a bruise, cut/crack or puncture. To relieve the pressure, recommended treatment is soaking the soul of the foot with warm water, Epson salts and iodine, and then wrapping with a poultice to help draw out the inflammation. Having a farrier or vet try to find an exit point for the abscess on the sole of the foot can speed up this process. If the abscess is not diagnosed and treated in time, the pressure may work it's way up through the hoof and release through the coronet band. These abscesses may take longer to heal as this additional exit wound is ideal for bacteria to re-enter the hoof and cause more problems.
Quick action in identifying and treating abscesses with your vet and farrier is important to help your horse recover quickly. Keeping the footing in pens and pastures free from items or surfaces that can bruise or puncture your horses feet is an important preventative measure.
Written by Gwen Donohoe, PhD