SIGNS OF A HOOF ABSCESS
Next, consider the floor. Remove any bales currently stored and sweep the space clean. Be on the lookout for signs of rodent infestation, such as excessive droppings or nests. If the floor is smooth and raised, such as plywood in a loft over a barn, you can stack the new bales directly on it. If, however, the floor is dirt or concrete, it can wick moisture up to the stored hay. In that case, you’ll want to put down tarp to act as a barrier and put pallets on top of it to allow air to circulate beneath the bales. This will keep the bottom layer of bales dry. (If the walls of your hay-storage space are cinder block or concrete, you will have the same moisture-wicking issue. In that case, make sure your stacked hay doesn’t touch the walls.)
Finally, scrutinize the door and any windows to ensure they shut tightly and do not leak. If it doesn’t have one already, consider adding a horse-proof latch to the door to protect your hay from stall and paddock escapees who may be looking to raid the hay stash.
When the storage area is prepped, stack the new hay inside neatly, then place the older bales toward the front of the area where they will be used first. Nutrients in hay degrade over time, so you don’t want bales sitting around uneaten any longer than necessary.
A horse standing on three legs is a chilling sight. Severe injury leaps to mind, of course, but the problem may be a relatively simple hoof abscess, which is painful but usually easy to resolve. To help distinguish an abscess from a serious injury, answer these questions:
Is there any swelling on the limb? Acute tendon, bone or ligament injuries come with associated swelling. Look over the limb and feel for areas of soft or hard swelling that may or may not be tender or hot to the touch.
Is there a wound? Wounds are
typically associated with trauma. The exceptions are abscesses that rupture and send pus through a break in the surface. These may leave a small wound above the coronary band or at the heel.
Does the limb look straight? Compare the limb to its opposite. A dislocated or damaged joint can cause a limb to take an odd orientation that might not be immediately apparent.
How does the hoof feel? Sometimes abscesses cause the hoof itself to feel warm and the digital pulse, felt on the pastern, to “bound.”
If you suspect your horse has an abscess instead of an injury, breathe a sigh of relief, but still touch base with your veterinarian. You’ll want to be sure you haven’t overlooked any significant signs of trouble as well as get some pain relief for your horse. For as long as he’s not bearing weight on one limb, he’ll be placing extra stress on the other three, which could lead to serious complications, including laminitis .