The well-known adage – no hoof, no horse – is getting a workout this warm, wet spring.
Saddlery and horse supply stores across the region have reported an influx of exasperated customers racing in to grab dressings, vet wrap and poultices with the words “hoof abscess” ringing in their ears.
Dr Bob Fielding, from Albury’s Hume Equine Centre, said he’d seen a 20 per cent increase in abscesses compared to last year’s early summer period.
“Certainly, it’s this weather,” he said with a rueful laugh.
“We’ve had a storm every weekend and with the moisture about it’s mobilising the bacteria.
“Hooves crack and dry out, then absorb this like a sponge.”
Dr Fielding said late autumn to early winter was usually the worst time for hoof abscesses.
The first sign to watch out for is gradual lameness increasing over two to three days.
Or, he said, you may come out one morning to find your horse “toe-pointing” and clearly finding the foot painful to walk on.
The first port of call is your vet or farrier – if you’re on good terms – to cut it out.
In terms of treatment, Dr Fielding said a poultice was generally needed to draw out the abscess.
Once it’s draining, recovery can take place quite quickly.
During this stage, you keep the hoof bandaged, clean and dry.
“Don’t give the horse access to a dam or anywhere muddy – use a trough so the ground around remains dry,” Dr Fielding advised.
The other essential component in preventing abscesses is to keep feet trimmed or shod regularly, according to Dr Fielding.
“Don’t let the feet get long or cracked and break away,” he said.
“Keeping up with the use of hoof nutritional supplements is worthwhile.
“Also hoof treatments get taken up by the hoof wall and close up any cracks which can lessen the chance of contamination.”
And as the region braced itself for more wet weather, vets and equine outlets were stocking up on their supplies.