The common cold for humans is the horse equivalent of an abscess. Some horses are more prone to them than others. I have a grulla paint mare that I have owned for just over a year, and in that course of a year, she has had a few abscesses. I have gotten pretty good in treating these things so I am going to share a little about an abscess and what some symptoms and treatment options are.
To start off if you don’t know what an abscess is, it occurs when bacteria invades the horse's hoof and is most noticeable when it infects the sensitive parts of the foot. They can cause serious damage if left untreated. What are some symptoms of an abscess you may ask? Well, the most common and noticed symptom is lameness and limping. This is in result to the invasion of the bacteria into the sensitive spots in the hoof.
However, there are a few more things that you can pick up on that are preliminary to an abscess. These include but are not limited to: fever, swelling of the leg and hoof area, sensitivity to hoof picks, and touch. If you notice your horse displaying any of these behaviors they probably have an abscess.
Fear not! These can be treated fairly easy. The easiest and fastest relief for your horse from an abscess is to have your vet or farrier come out and find the location of the infection of it has not broken through and trim a hole/path for the infection to drain out. However, some abscesses erupt and break through on their own, not needing to have a hole/path cut to drain them.
Once it is broke through and draining it is important to keep this area clean. Some people soak the foot in Epsom salts this is known the draw the infection out of the foot. This can be easily done by purchasing a soaking boot from your local tack store. These make the soaking process so much easier! Have you ever tried to get your horse to put its foot into a bucket to soak? Well, good luck, that’s a job in itself! Trust me the soak boots are a simple solution to a bigger potential headache.
What causes abscess and how can they be prevented? Well, the most common cause is an irritation to the sole of the foot most commonly from a stone or something of that nature getting stuck in the foot. It can even be as simple as a bruise from a stone/rock from trail riding. Aside from that, another common cause is moisture whether there be too much or too little moisture. Finally, dirty stalls are horrible for horse’s feet and can bring about abscesses.
If you pay attention and do your best to maintain healthy hoof care you should be fine. However, if your horse does get an abscess, just be sure to treat it accordingly and get it taken care of quickly.