Tri-State Horse

Becoming more ‘Abscess Aware’ By  BRYAN S. FARCUS MA, CJF

  • Becoming more ‘Abscess Aware

     20092018 Farrier-Friendly” ™ article series
    Nature of the Beast
    Being observant and addressing minor concerns will, in the vast majority of cases,
    prevent the occurrence of many hoof complications. However, despite all your efforts,
    one day you may enter your barn and be shocked to find your horse in a helpless posture,
    as he struggles to move and can not bear any weight on one of his hooves. You instantly
    entertain thoughts of a broken leg or a ruptured tendon. Fortunately, after some
    investigating, you breathe a sigh of relief, as you rule out these extreme possibilities.
    But, what now? What lameness could be so mystifying, as though it had happened
    overnight? The answer: a hoof abscess. An abscess or gravel, as some call it, almost
    always greets us in this manner. When a horse’s hoof tissue is damaged to a degree that
    penetrates the deeper, sensitive tissue, foreign material (most likely gravel) can enter and
    cause sepsis (infection). The pain experienced by the horse will often leave him “three-
    legged” lame.

    Earlier Detection
    According to most veterinary manuals, a hoof abscess is the leading cause of hoof
  • related lameness. Generally, abscesses will manifest in one of three situations:

    A bruising of the sole (dry injury); usually visible as a reddish discoloration
    which occurs due to a minor subcutaneous bleed. Often, when we see the
    discoloration the healing process has already begun and most likely the horse is
    showing no sign of lameness.
    Weakening of tissue due to over-exposure to moisture (moist injury), causing
    fissures (cracks) on the surface of sole, which provides the opportunity for a
    friction-related irritation and/or hoof wall separation.
    An obstruction/ puncture of the sole or frog which generates necrosis (death)
    of the infected sensitive tissue (suppurating injury); often this injury is unable
    to be treated without veterinary assistance, since the puncture can be deep
    within the coria (sensitive structures). Also, if the object of puncture (nail,
    wire, long wood splinter) is still lodged within the hoof, you should resist
    temptation and DO NOT remove until your veterinarian is consulted, as an X-
    ray can reveal the depth and proximity of the object to any critical hoof area
    that could result in permanent lameness.

    And finally, keep in mind that prevention of an abscess is primarily centered on
    eliminating any possible source, such as:
    º dropped nails along fence line or barn area after repairs/ an attractor magnet is
    very helpful.
    º roadside, tossed glass bottles or aluminum cans.
  • º buried barbed wire from older fence lines.
    º avoid keeping your horse in wet, soggy flood plains for prolonged periods of
    time, as that will soften hoof tissues and make them prone to bruising/injury.
    Also, equally important is to commit to a regular farrier schedule. An experienced
    farrier will be able to spot the early symptoms that may predispose your horse to an
    abscess. Quite often, in this situation, many people tend to overlook the benefits of a
    well-balanced hoof. In my practice, I’ve noticed that there tends to be a strong
    correlation between neglected, unbalanced hooves and the reoccurrence of abscesses.
    Resources & References:
    Understanding the Equine Foot, F .Jurga
    Merck Veterinary Manual7th
    edition, C. Fraser, J. Bergeron, A. Mays, S. Aiello
    Veterinary Treatments & Medications for Horsemen, J. Giffin, T.Gore
    Principles of Horseshoeing (P3), D. Butler, J. Butler