From Endurance to Dressage
We didn't go to this weekend's show at El Sueno because Speedy developed an abscess overnight. I am sure they don't actually develop overnight, but it has sure seemed that way. At best count, Speedy has now had 6 abscesses in 12 months. Before last February, he had never had a single one.
I suppose I should be grateful. It's far better to know what causes a lameness rather than not knowing for sure. After his abscess in August, I invested in hoof testers and a hoof knife. I've put them to good use. I've grown quite good at locating an abscess and digging it out. And not just Speedy's. All of the ranch's horses are now under my watchful eye. I treated the Thoroughbred mare's abscess last month.
The scariest thing about abscesses is how they present themselves. If your horse shows up looking like his leg must be broken, take a deep breath. If there are no lacerations or marks, your incredibly lame horse probably has a hoof abscess. The painful foot might also show some heat and swelling.
Before freaking out, I always pull out my hoof testers; this is the pair I bought. As a side note, these are really easy for a woman to handle while still being very accurate. I always start on one side of the hoof near the heal, and start squeezing my way around the toe back to the other heal. You almost can't squeeze too hard. I squeeze until I see the sole flex. The best way to learn how to use hoof testers is to try them out on a sound horse so that you know how hard you need to squeeze before you get a reaction.
Speedy tested positive on the outside bar. Once I know where it hurts, I start scraping with my hoof knife. The one I bought is sharp enough that I can dig down through the sole as far as I feel safe digging. It's also double sided so I can scrape to the left or right.
The first thing I try to find is the abscess track, marked by the red arrow in the photo above. The track is the path that the grain took as it entered and migrated up into the hoof. Once I find that, I just keep digging deeper and deeper until I either see pus, which is rare, or more commonly, Speedy starts to get really "ouchy." That means I am nearly there. The red circle marks the hole I dug.
The reason I don't like to dig too deeply is that the larger the hole, the longer it takes to fill in. Even though I wanted the satisfaction of "draining" the abscess, I stopped digging when I saw that I was approaching blood. You can tell that the white of the sole is starting to turn pink. Speedy was also in a lot of pain. Simply opening up the sole, even if you don't go all the way, makes it easier for the abscess to drain. I knew that by applying a poultice, the sole would soften up enough to allow whatever particle had made it's way up into the hoof to drain out.
The poultice I prefer is Numotizine. The Numotizine seems to soften the sole, drawing out the infection. Sometimes I can get away with just poulticing without even using a hoof knife. And the good thing is that you can't hurt the hoof by poulticing it for a few days.
I like to scoop out the Numotizine with a telfa pad. Numotizine stinks, and it's hard to get off your hands. By applying it with a telfa pad, it also provides an additional barrier for when the duct tape and vet wrap inevitably wear off, like in the photo below. Underneath the torn duct tape, the brown gauze and telfa pad were still firmly adhered to the hole in Speedy's sole.
While it's not necessary, I like to wrap with brown gauze before wrapping with the adhesive bandage. The brown gauze holds the telfa pad in place, and really, with horses that live in turn out like Speedy, your bandage needs all the layers it can get. If your horse is in a lot of pain, you can also use the brown gauze to wrap cotton sheeting over the Numotizine to help relieve the pressure of standing on an abscess.
Once the brown gauze is in place, I continue with the adhesive bandage. Any brand will do. At any given time, I have Co-flex, Vet Wrap, or a brand I've never heard of filling my bucket. I generally only use half to three-fourths of a roll.
The last step is probably the most important. If your duct tape isn't secure, the whole thing will fall off and have served no useful purpose. I like to apply the duct tape like a bandage. I wrap it around and around the hoof first. After I've covered most of the hoof, I switch to strips. I layer them across the bottom of the hoof going eat to west, and then I repeat that step laying them north and south. The bottom of the wrap is the part that wears through the quickest which is why I like layering the duct tape in a criss cross pattern.
I like to leave the poultice on for three days. The first wrap made it from Friday morning through Sunday morning, only 48 hours. On Saturday, Speedy was still quite lame, but on Sunday morning he was sound at the walk and 95% sound at the trot on the grass. Even so, I repeated the poultice. I've learned that while the horse may look sound, things aren't quite healed up. And besides, poulticing a few extra days won't do any harm.
Once I feel that the acute phase of the abscess has passed, I rewrap the hoof in the same way except that I substitute a telfa pad soaked in Betadine for the Numotizine. The Betadine helps kill the infection while the hole slowly closes up.
Last night, Speedy was once again lame, but I am pretty sure it was because his foot was just soft and tender from the Numotizine. With the new wrap in place, he walked off sounder than when I had jogged him out completely barefoot. Besides killing the infection, the Betadine also hardens the foot back up.
Both horses are going to the vet on Saturday for their annul work up. Dr. Tolley will be able to assess the state of the abscess then. My fingers are crossed that Speedy is sound by then.
Today is just another day ...
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read