Muddy ground brings misery for horses

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The continued wet weather and the resulting muddy conditions have resulted in an increase in several conditions in the horses we’ve been seeing over the past few weeks.

We have seen more cases of pus in the foot. This is an extremely painful condition in which the horse can become non-weight bearing lame, in a matter of hours in some cases. With wet weather the horse’s foot capsule expands, and with continued wet and muddy conditions this allows dirt to track up between the interlocking finger-like laminae of the hoof wall and cause infection, resulting in an abscess.

The biggest quandary faced by owners is whether to wash the mud off horses’ legs when they come in, or to let it dry, then brush it off. Whatever anyone chooses to do, the main principle should be to remove the mud.

This condition can be so painful that the horse refuses to put any weight on its foot and so often looks like it has broken its leg, so we have been receiving several calls from distressed owners fearing the worst.

Treatment in most cases is achieved by paring the abscess out and applying a poultice — this allows drainage, and in most cases, full resolution. In some cases the abscess can be so deep that it travels up the hoof wall to then burst out at the top, the coronary band. Thankfully, in most cases this condition is easily treated.

The other case we’re seeing more of is mud fever. This is a bacterial condition mainly affecting the white areas of the lower part of the leg. This again can be painful. In most cases the bacteria that causes it doesn’t survive in air so multiplies under the scabs. The aim of treatment, therefore, is to gently soften and lift the scabs off.

The biggest quandary faced by owners is whether to wash the mud off horses’ legs when they come in, or to let it dry, then brush it off. Whatever anyone chooses to do, the main principle should be to remove the mud.

There are many products available to protect legs against this condition, as well as many different types of boots and bandages, which aim to protect the legs.

Hopefully, this weather will soon improve and the ground start to dry up, and we can look forward to a better spring.

On a lighter note to try to cheer up these dark winter nights, we are holding a horse-related quiz, not just medical conditions, but general knowledge questions related to horses. Anyone is welcome to come along. We are holding it at the surgery at Whorral Bank, on Thursday, February 4, at 7pm. If you would like to join us please let the surgery know. There’ll be light refreshments available.

By Sally Booth, Director