Unfortunately, Dixie had become lame that morning.
She was unwilling to put any weight on her left rear leg, and as beautiful as she was, the thought of veterinary costs for a horse with leg problems was unnerving - especially with our VERY limited knowledge. We decided to wait a few days and see how she was then.
Her owner took her to the vet to find the cause of the distress and she was diagnosed with a hoof abscess. Several more days went by until my farrier was available to look at Dixie, trim her hooves and give me her personal opinion.
This is what a (draft horse) hoof abscess looks like - this one was quite large.
Here it is - he's pointing to it - the hole on the bottom of her foot.
An abscess is an infection that occurs when foreign material - sand, dirt, gravel, or bacteria gains entry into the hoof. This material migrates to the sensitive area of the hoof and begins to fester. Pus is formed as the body fights this infection and as it builds it causes severe pain - thus lameness. The accumulated pus will travel the path of least resistance, and since the outer hoof wall will not expand, it will generally rupture through either the top of the hoof (coronet) or the sole (like the one in our picture). An abscess can be caused by a penetrating wound or by moisture and bacteria gaining entry into cracks along the white line (the separation between the hard, outer hoof and the softer sole of the hoof).
Once the infection was drained and we had Dixie home, her treatment consisted of anti-bacterial medication in her feed twice a day and soaking her foot in Epsom Salt ( 2 cups / gallon of warm water) twice a day for 30 minutes. We did this for two weeks.
It's been almost 5 weeks and today Keely came to trim her hooves again. Dixie no longer limps or shows any discomfort but she's still healing. To help harden the new growth of her sole I was shown how to apply Durasole - a hoof toughener.
I believe that regular trimming and diligent hoof care and will greatly assist in keeping this problem from reoccurring.
The fact that we live in the sand and not in a wet, boggy area is also conducive to healthy hooves.
Now it's time to call the dentist!
Many thanks to Keely Bass, our farrier, for her help and expertise in this area!