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The Problem With Mud

· Equestrian,Horses,Hoof Health

The first warm week of the year is bittersweet. Everything starts to thaw but that means mud, mud, and more mud. We all know the horror of turning our horse out and he inevitably picks the muddiest part of the pasture to roll and you watch it happen in slow motion. But mud means more trouble than just having to spend extra time de-mudding your horse.

Besides being a nuisance, mud can be extremely damaging to horse's hooves. In extreme cases, the hoof can become deformed when exposed to wet ground for extended periods of time. In more mild climates where there may be a "mud season" for only a couple months, deformities may be uncommon but hooves are still susceptible to other issues such as thrush, sole bruising, scratches, and abscesses.

  • Thrush: a bacterial infection that affects the hooves, particularly around the sensitive frog. Your horse's hooves will be extremely foul-smelling and there may be a discharge from the frog. Thrush is common and treatment is easy. If you suspect your horse has thrush, move them to a dry environment with dry, clean bedding. Keep the affected hooves picked and free of any dirt. You can buy Banixx which is an antibacterial, or you can use diluted bleach. Mix 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Pour some into a spray bottle and spray over the bottom of the hoof. 
  • Sole Bruising: Since the mud and wet conditions make hooves weaker, they become more prone to bruising. Sole bruising is one of the most common causes of lameness in horses. Your horse will be visibly lame and the hoof may feel hot to the touch. If you suspect a bruised sole, consult your vet or farrier to determine the best course of action. They may need to remove the shoe and inspect the hoof to make sure an abscess has not formed. 
  • Scratches: Scratches presents as flaky, swollen skin around the fetlock and pastern. Treatment is simple: remove the horse from the muddy environment, clip the hair, and wash with antibacterial soap and gently towel dry the affected area. Apply Corona ointment. Sometimes a call to the vet is needed who may prescribe a stronger ointment. 
  • Abscesses: An abscess is pus which builds up in the hoof and can cause lameness and are common in soft, permeable feet. A small piece of sand or gravel works its way through the hoof and then creates the abscess. The foreign material will work its way up and they will typically pop and drain near the coronary band. A farrier will be able to assist with making sure the hoof is cleaned and that the hoof is stable. Some horses are more prone to getting abscesses than others. A farrier or vet will be able to inform you about the best course of treatment. 
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