Detecting and Treating Subsolar Abscesses

A conservative approach may provide relief without compromising overall hoof integrity

Pictured Above: Hall of Fame farrier Henry Heymering advises looking for dark spots or cracks to detect an abscess. In the foot pictured above, you can follow the black line in the sole to find the abscess. The cavity has been drained.

Your client called. Her horse is three-legged lame, and she thinks it’s an abscess. What should you do? For many farriers, the answer is easy: evaluate the lameness, and if it’s an abscess, drain the infection and keep the hoof clean and dry afterward.

Treating a subsolar abscess is usually a simple procedure, and relief for the horse is immediate. But not all abscesses are alike, and some may be more difficult to treat than others. For example, depending on the cause, the abscess may be chronic, requiring in-depth, long-term treatment or changes in management. If your client doesn’t notice a horse’s lameness right away, the infection may work its way upward toward the coronet band, rendering it too deep to relieve by traditional methods. Other abscesses might develop as a result of a poorly driven nail, requiring removal of the nail and horseshoe in order to administer treatment.

In a recent American Farriers Journal survey on equine lameness, 87% of the farriers who responded felt abscesses are the most common cause of lameness in horses. Consequently, seasoned farriers may see hundreds or even thousands of abscesses throughout the course of their careers. For that reason, knowing how to identify and successfully treat an abscess is a useful…

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Allison rehnborg

Allison Armstrong Rehnborg

Allison Armstrong Rehnborg is a free­lance writer and pho­tog­­ra­pher from Nashville, Tenn. She has been pub­lished by several equine titles.

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