- The horse attempts to keep weight off the injured leg, or points his toe.
- Heat or swelling in the horse's lower leg.
- A black spot located along the perimeter of the white line of the wall.
- Increased body temperature or digital pulse
Caution: Abscesses must be treated and diagnosed by a veterinarian - the condition can turn up within twenty-four hours of initial injury, and usually no more than two or three days after. The lameness and swelling will continue until the abscess has been opened by a veterinarian, and the horse must continue treatment for days afterward by soaking the hoof in a saline solution. An abscesses is an infection and does not go away on their own by waiting them out, and the horse should absolutely not be ridden during recovery.
CAUSES OF ABSCESS
- Injury and trauma to the sole caused by any type of penetrating object; perhaps the rider of an unshod (barefoot) horse might not be aware of the limitations of going barefoot (trotting over sharp gravel of a newly laid fire-road).
- A close nail from a horse shoe. (It is much less common for a barefoot horse to develop an abscess.)
- Damage to the corium from decreased blood flow.
- Bacteria migrating in to the defects, fissures and cracks in the white line.
CARE OF AN ABSCESS
Even the most knowledgeable farrier can misdiagnose an abscess, and the old wive's club has a million remedies for the condition--so it is always recommended that a veterinarian be called in to diagnose and prescribe treatment. The veterinarian will know the best treatment for the horse and has the education necessary to diagnose the problem. Do not trust the word of one farrier over another, as this is a competitive business, and given the opportunity to bash a competitor is always welcome, even when there is no problem.
- Because this is a bacterial infection, cleanliness is key.
- A slow and thorough trimming of the horse's hooves is essential.
- Alternating wetness and dryness: Very wet conditions tend to open up hoof fibers allowing bacteria to enter; when dry, the fibers contract sealing in the bacteria and allowing it to colonize.
- If the horse is barefoot, stay off stones as sharp rocks can also cause injury.
- If you've moved your horse to a new location, and your horse ends up with an abcess, be sure to check the pasture for rocks or other foreign object that could cause punctures or bruising to form.
Jim Creeden, Farrier, has a Bachelor of Science degree from Virginia Tech and has been working as a professional farrier for 20 years.