Horse Health


The normal gestation period of a mare is between eleven and twelve months. Abortion in horses is defined as the death and expulsion of the fetus before ten months. The causes of abortion are varied but they can be grouped under general headings.

Fetal Infection

The three possible routes of infection are the mother’s bloodstream, through the cervix during pregnancy, or the presence of infection already in the uterus at the time of conception. Infection may be caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. A virus that is at present causing a great deal of concern world-wide is the rhinopneumonitis virus, or virus abortion. This causes a respiratory disease in all horses,male and female, but in the pregnant mare some six to eight weeks after the respiratory head-cold it causes abortion of the fetus. In some countries it has become the most common cause of abortion. The mare will usually conceive quite normally the following year and carry the foal. In some countries a vaccine is available against the disease.

Fetal Starvation

The developing fetus depends for its supplies of vital food material in the first few weeks on the secretions of the uterus and then later on the placenta. These mechanisms may fail for one reason or another and cut the food supply from the fetus. Death results. It may be due to malnutrition of the mare, extreme changes in her management, growth of twin fetuses or from hormonal or glandular problems.

Hormonal Deficiencies

Where the mare has been shown to abort because of hormonal deficiency, she can be given hormone injections throughout the term of a subsequent pregnancy. Seek veterinary advice.
In any case of abortion, no matter what you think the cause is, remove other in-contact mares to a separate, empty paddock. Then call your vet to do a postmortem and to take samples for examination. Burn or bury the remains of the foal and membranes and isolate the stall. The dead foal’s membranes and the uterine fluids from the mare are highly infectious to other horses if virus abortion was the culprit. Disinfect the general area where the abortion took place. Unfortunately, if all the mares have been together for several months the damage is probably done and the other mares are also likely to abort.


An abrasion is where several layers of skin have been taken off, leaving a weeping or bleeding patch. It does not go right through the hide. Abrasions occur round the back of the pastern, round the cannon bone (wire burns) and on the extensor surfaces of the legs and joints (gravel burns). The materials causing the abrasions are frequently rope (the tethered horse gets tangled in rope or sometimes it is the result of stringent methods of breaking in, when a foal is roped up); wire (the horse gets tangled in fences); and gravel (the animal falls when on a gravel road).
The best therapy is hot and cold foments followed by the surgical removal of tags of tissue that have lost their blood supply. Apply Socatyl paste (an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory) to the area, and bandage. Change the bandage each two days. Once the lesions have stopped leaking serum, they can be allowed to dry out and a topical astringent agent such as mercurochrome or acriflavine can be applied to the areas twice daily. Do not pick scabs off wounds unless pus is accumulating.


Abscesses can be caused by infection with strangles, dirty injections, or foreign bodies. Abscesses in the mouth are frequently caused by grain, grass seeds or a decayed tooth root. An abscess is effectively present in fistulous withers and poll evil. An abscess is really an accumulation of organisms producing pus.
Hot foment the area six times daily by holding a warm, wet cloth against the abscess site. This should be done fora few days until the abscess becomes soft and pointed. Once there is an obvious fluid accumulation under the skin surface, sterilize a razor blade or scalpel blade by holding it in a flame for thirty seconds. Nick the top of the abscess quickly with the blade and allow the pus to drain out. If possible, enlarge the opening to at least I centimeter in diameter; this will prevent the skin from healing too quickly. Next, wash out the abscess with 50 per cent per-oxide and water, using a large syringe without a needle four times daily. Continue to hot foment and massage the area. After four days, continue to wash out the wound three times a day with plain water until it heals from the inside out. Do not let the skin edges seal together prematurely as this leaves a cavity in which the abscess can reform. If the horse is affected generally, antibiotics should be given.


If a horse has had an accident, very calmly keep talking to it, as it is probably in a state of panic. If the horse is off its feet and entangled in wire or rope, hold its head to the ground to prevent the animal from standing (sit on the horse’s head if necessary). Remove any obstacles from around the horse, and apply a tourniquet or pressure bandage to bleeding points. Keep the horse warm and, if necessary, contact a vet.
A first-aid box should always be kept in the stables for emergencies.


Actinomycosis is a rare bacterial condition in the horse. When an animal is affected, however, areas of the jaw bone become very swollen, and may burst and discharge pus. The condition can be controlled by antibiotics. The condition is caused by organisms entering via tooth sockets.

African Horse Sickness

African horse sickness is a fatal viral disease of horses and is confined to Africa. It can affect the heart, the lungs, or both. The condition begins with a fever, and the incubation period is from two to four weeks. Some horses show slight symptoms of illness such as loss of appetite, conjunctivitis. labored breathing and an accelerated pulse, but the characteristic symptom is the raised body temperature which reaches 40.5°C in about one to three days. There is no treatment available.


Dietary deficiencies of certain amino acids, proteins, iron,copper and cobalt can all cause anaemia, but worms are probably the most common cause in horses. Equine infectious anaemia (swamp fever) and loss of blood in the gastrointestinal tract are also causes. Signs of anaemia are pale mucous membranes of the mouth and eyes, lethargy, ill-thrift, and poor coat. When treating anaemia it is essential to first eliminate the cause. Follow this up with iron supplementation, and increase the protein level in the diet. This can be done by feeding the horse milk powder at the rate of 250 grams per day or soya bean meal, or meat meal or cottonseed meal at the rate of 500 grams per day, and giving injections of vitamin B complex and folic acid twice weekly until the horse’s health is restored


An aneurism is a dilation in an artery wall. In the horse this is caused by worm infestation weakening the wall of the artery and allowing it to distend and stretch. The wall maybe come so weakened that it ruptures, causing the animal to bleed to death internally. Alternatively, the wall maybe come thickened due to inflammation caused by the migrating larvae. In these cases blood supply can be interrupted to a section of intestine or to a limb.


Anthrax is a highly contagious, world-wide bacterial disease characterized by septicemia. The horse develops an acute colic and fever, and hot swelling may occur in the neck, throat or chest. In other cases, the symptoms are lack of breath with fever, and bloody discharges from the rectum. Death occurs in one to two days. The carcass should not be touched by anyone apart from the vet who does the diagnostic postmortem, and must be disposed of by burn-ing. Sudden death after a short, acute illness indicates the possibility of anthrax. In most countries the Department of Agriculture must be notified, and the property where the disease occurs put under strict quarantine. Anthrax is always fatal, and can easily infect other animals and humans.


Arthritis is the name given to inflammation of a joint. In horses it usually results from an injury, but there can be other causes. In performance horses such as racing thoroughbreds and standard bred, jumpers and endurance horses the most common joint affected is the fetlock. Arthritis can be either septic or aseptic. When it is septic the initial symptoms are usually a sudden development of heated pain, with the joint becoming swollen and tense. Movement is restricted and there is marked lameness. The joint appears to be filled with fluid. The horse may have a temperature and the area over the joint feels hot to the touch when compared to the joints on the other leg. In an aseptic arthritis the injury is usually due to chronic work-load. In these cases the onset of soreness and lameness is much slower, perhaps developing over a period of months. One of the initial signs is decreased flexion of the joint. The joint area itself becomes enlarged (apple-jointed) and there will be a concurrent increase in size of visible joint capsules(wind-galls).
Antibiotics are essential treatment for septic arthritis. For both types of arthritis complete rest is essential. Make frequent cold applications to the part involved, or irrigate with cold water several times a day. In between. drawing agents such as antiphlogistine packs, epsom salt bandages,or other commercially available packs can be placed on the joint. Systemic anti-inflammatory treatments such as butazolidine or cortisone are often helpful in reducing the degree of inflammation. In cases of open arthritis (open joint), where there is an opening from the joint to the skin,it is best to seek the advice of a veterinary surgeon.

Artificial Insemination

Artificial insemination simply means the artificial introduction of male semen into the genital tract of the female, as compared with natural insemination. This technique is feasible in mares. For information contact your veterinarian. The practice is banned by many breed registries, notably in thoroughbreds, to preserve the economics of the horse-breeding industry.

Azoturia (Tying-up)

The signs of this disease vary from mild to severe. In mild cases, when the horse cools down after exercise it may ‘dip’ when pressed over the loins or become stiff in either the shoulders or hindquarters or both. In these mild cases the horse has a shortened stride of either the front or hind legs or both. In severe cases the horse might go only a hundred meters before all its muscles jam and the horse is unable to move. The muscles over the loins become rock-hard and urine may be of a port wine color. Azoturia is extremely painful. It is usually caused by a high-grain diet combined with a low exercise level. The energy from the high-grain diet is stored in the muscles, and finally breaks down to forman acid. This acts on the muscles,-causing the condition. Classic cases are seen in horses fed hard-grain rations seven days a week, and exercised six days with a day off on Sunday. The disease hits them on Monday when they begin working (its name used to be ‘Monday morning sickness or disease’). The horse must be stopped immediately from any work that it is doing. Do not even try to walk it back to its stall. Warmth is helpful—double-rug the affected animal, or at least use one rug with a folded blanket or feed sack over the loins. Treatment consists of neutralizing the acidity with intravenous injections, and applying anti-inflammatory agents. Alkaline solutions can also be given as saline drenches by stomach tube. It is essential to rest the horse for several days after all symptoms have gone. Eliminate all grain from the diet. The horse should be brought back into work gradually, over a protracted period of several weeks. Control of the disease involves working the horse seven days a week, reducing the high-grain diet, or reducing throat content of the diet and replacing some of it with corn. Injections of selenium and vitamin E are helpful. Add electrolyte preparations to feed or water—these contain alkaline salts to neutralize the acid in the muscles and act as a mild diuretic to flush the acid and waste products from the muscles. A horse that has tied-up once is more likely to suffer from the problem again.

Back Injuries

Back injuries are rarely serious unless the horse has reared over backwards, is steeple chasing, racing or jumping, in which case there is a possibility of fracturing the spine. If a horse comes down in a fall, let it lie quietly for several minutes in case it is merely winded. The animal should then be encouraged to rise.
If there is no sign of attempts to rise, or if the horse appears able to use only its forelegs, it can be concluded that the back is probably fractured and the horse should be destroyed. Crushing or severance of the spinal cord produces typical signs of hindquarter paralysis. The tail is completely limp and the anus relaxed and open, possibly with feces dropping from the passage. In the male the penis will be relaxed and protruding from the sheath. Definite indications of paralysis are not always present in the case of fracture of the back. Sometimes the injury is a cracked vertebra with insufficient displacement to do any damage to the spinal cord. In these cases the horse can usually walk awkwardly and box-rest is advised—but your vet will advise on individual cases.
Muscle soreness over the loins is usually due to mild `tying-up.’ It is rare for a horse to strain these muscles. Additional supportive treatment includes ray-lamps and liniments rubbed into the affected areas.
Sacroiliac ligament strain is evidenced by wasting of the muscles on both sides of the rump. Usually there is a peak-ing at the back line between the points of the hip. The only satisfactory treatment is to spell the horse for at least sixteen weeks.
Saddle-rub is most commonly caused by an ill-fitting saddle and/or insufficient padding between the saddle and the horse. Rub the area of the saddle sore with methylated spirits to dry up and harden the area. If the horse must be used before the wound is treated, purchase a 5-centimeter foam rubber saddle-pad and cut a hole over the saddlesore. This will allow the horse to be ridden while the saddlesore repairs. Once the sore has healed, use an extra saddle-blanket to prevent recurrence.
Spondylitis (arthritis of the backbone) is more common in older horses that have been used for work or sport. Sometimes this condition is due to the horse being cast oreven flipping right over in a float or stable. Symptoms of spondylitis include dipping when mounted or palpated along the midline of the back. Treatment includes rubbing in a muscle liniment or warming the area with a ray-lamp. However, better results are usually achieved by using anti-inflammatory analgesic agents such as butazolidine. Chiropractors and physiotherapists have been involved in treatment with varying success rates. The difficulty is the huge mass of muscle to manipulate successfully.

Bandaging the Legs

Bandages are used for support when the horse is being worked or floated,or when a wound needs covering. Whether an adhesive bandage or a non-adhesive bandage is used depends on how active the horse is, the region of the leg requiring bandaging, and the frequency with which the bandage has-to be changed. It is very difficult (in fact, almost impossible) to bandage the hock without using a self-adhesive bandage. Where dressings need to be changed daily, it is best not to use self-adhesive bandages because they are expensive, cannot be re-used and can pull out .hairs quite easily.
When applying bandages to the various parts of the limbs, it is best to commence by using a wad of cotton-wool from a roll. Wind this once around the affected limb. Start the self-adhesive bandage so that there is at least centimeters on the horse’s skin, then wind the rest around the cotton-wool. Continue winding the bandage around the leg until the bottom of the wad-ding is reached, finishing off with another 3 centimeters on the skin. In the case of the fetlock and the knee, it is important to cross-cross to the opposite sides of the joint to get a firm holding. It is vitally important that the rear of the knee is not bandaged, and the bone (accessory carpal bone) left exposed. Bandaging over this bone will result in a pressure sore which takes a long time to heal.
Whenever restrictions such as bandages are applied to the limbs of horse, they should be checked twice a day for the first few days and then daily to detect any undue swelling. If the limb begins to fill below or above the bandage, the bandage should be removed immediately. If possible, the horse should be walked for exercise to reduce the swelling.

Bee Stings

If possible remove the sting. Apply ammonia, a strong solution of washing soda, or a paste of washing soda. If there are a number of stings, antihistamines can be given by a veterinary surgeon and antibiotic cover is often necessary.


Nose-bleeding can occur from a knock to the head. This should be suspected if the bleeding is unrelated to exercise, and particularly if it is from one nostril. Tie the horse up,so that its head is in the normal position, and apply cold towels to the forehead and nose. Horses in hard training and reaching the peak of fitness will often bleed a few drops (up to a cupful) from one or both nostrils after they have finished exercise. This is caused by either a rupture of a vessel at the top of the nose or, more dangerously, bleed-ing in the lungs. A veterinary surgeon should be consulted after any such bleeding attacks.
Leg wounds
The horse has many large blood vessels in the limbs. When these are cut it is best to stop the bleeding by tight pressure bandages and, if necessary, a tourniquet applied above the knee or hock. (The need for a tourniquet is rare, however.)Self-adhesive bandages 7.5 centimeters wide make ideal pressure bandages.

Blood counts

The normal blood count of the horse is given in the section Caring for the sick horse.

Blood Poisoning (Septiceleania)

Blood poisoning occurs where organisms enter the bloodstream either from the bowel or by penetrating wounds (for example, abscesses). The signs of blood poisoning are lethargy, depressed appetite, sometimes a fever, and a darkening of mucous membranes. This con-dition can be fatal unless the horse is treated properly,usually with antibiotics.

Boma Disease

Boma disease is an inflammatory disease of the brain. There is fever, paralysis of the pharynx, muscle tremor and lethargy. Paralysis is seen in terminal stages and death occurs one to three weeks after signs begin. Mortality is usually 60-70 per cent. The disease has only ever been recorded in Germany.

Broken Wind

Broken wind or ‘heaves’ is a chronic respiratory condition caused by emphysema of the lungs. Emphysema is a persistent over-distention of the air-sacs. As a result of this distention the walls separating one sac from another be-come thin and weak and finally rupture. In this way a number of sacs may ‘run together’ and form a large gap. This reduces the area available for the exchange of oxygen. In many cases it is the result of violent expiratory efforts such as coughing. It can also occur after bronchitis or pneumonia, particularly if the horse is kept in work while it has a virus. It may be due to feeding dusty food, which brings about coughing, or too bulky food, especially if the animal is habitually worked hard immediately after feeding. The animals affected are usually good feeders and are often in good condition. The two main signs of the condition are a double expiratory effort and a cough. The cough is fairly frequent and can be induced by finger pressure over the larynx. It is long, deep, and hollow and may appear in spasms. In severe cases the animal will exhibit signs when at rest. In moderate cases animals exhibit the signs only after exercise.
The movements are exaggerated during expiration. There is at first a short normal contraction of the abdominal muscles and after a slight pause a second more pro-longed contraction. There may be a slight discharge from the nose. Depending on the degree of damage, some horses will be useless to the owners. There is no likelihood of recovery.
Prevention: Attend to feeding. Avoid dusty feed. Avoid bulky food before exercise. Do not give forced exercise to a horse in soft condition, after feeding or while coughing from any cause.


Burns and scalds are extremely painful and animals will resent anything but the most gentle handling and dressing of the affected parts. All extensive burns and scalds (cover-ing more than 5 per cent of the body surface) should be attended to by a veterinary surgeon at the earliest possiblemoment. The burnt or scalded area must be covered with a clean, dry dressing (for example, gauze, a clean hanker-chief or a towel) and a bandage applied to keep it in position. Never apply oil, grease, flour, soot, baking soda,spirit, tincture of iodine or lysol to the burn or scald.
Where the burn results from a flame, the burned area will be devoid of hair. Any loose, charred debris can be removed by gauze soaked in warm, normal saline—one tea-spoonful of salt to 600 milliliters of warm, boiled water. If there is gross dirt or grease around the affected area, soap and warm water may be used before the normal saline swabbing. Alternatively, acriflavine (one part in one thou-sand) may be used in the same way, thus cleansing the burnt area at the same time. For first aid of trivial burns, use tannic acid, jellies, warm, strong tea oracriflavine (one part in one thousand).
If the burn is caused by corrosive acid, bathe the part with an alkaline solution which can be made by adding a dessert spoonful of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to 600 milliliters of boiled water. Washing soda (sodium carbonate) may be used in the same strength. If neither of these is available, wash the part gently with plenty of warm water.
If a burn is caused by a corrosive alkali such as quick-lime, brush out any of its remains from the animal’s coat and bathe the area with an acid solution. This can be made by mixing equal parts of vinegar and water. After acids and alkalis have been neutralized the burnt area should be treated with one of the local applications previously mentioned

Calcium Deficiency

If a complete commercial ration is being used, there is no need for the addition of calcium. When high-grain diets are fed calcium carbonate should be added because these are high in phosphorus and low in calcium. The calcium : phosphorus ratio should be 1.1:1. A horse suffer-ing from calcium deficiency may sometimes eat manure.


The knee is concave at the front like a young calf’s knee. Little can be done for this conformation abnormality.

Capped Elbow

Capped elbow is caused by the heel of the front shoe touching the elbow when the horse is lying down with its legs tucked beneath it. The bone is bruised, and a serious(watery) discharge forms to protect the bone from further mechanical damage. This appears as a fluid swelling on the point of the elbow. As long as the heel of the shoe continues to touch the elbow, the condition will persist, despite treatment.
Either remove the shoe, or place an Elizabethan collar around the fetlock. Once remedial action has been taken to prevent contact, the elbow can be drained by a veterinary surgeon and the blemish, provided it has not been present for a long period, will disappear.


Carpitis is an inflammation of the knee joint. It is caused by hard performance work such trotting, or jumping, or by a horse continually knocking a knee against an object. An X-ray may reveal a chip of bone at the front of the knee. It is common when immature horses are worked hard and long on hard tracks. The causative agent must be detected and stopped, and the condition can be controlled with cold packs, antiphlogistine, or by cold hosing. Rest for several weeks is essential.

Caslick’s Operation

Temporary stitching of the vulva to prevent fecal matter from entering the vagina and setting up infection that would threaten a pregnancy.


A male horse can be castrated (gelded) from the age of two months, but -the most common age is between eighteen months and two years. The modem method for castration usually involves a general anesthetic. Local anaesthetic can be used, however, if the horse will stand quietly. The castration wounds are usually left open to drain, as the most common problem after castration is swelling and/or infection. To prevent swelling building up, the horse should be exercised by lungeing or riding for twenty minutes twice daily for fourteen days after the operation. The more exercise the horse gets the less possibility there is of unwanted side effects. After each exercise period the wound should be hosed for five minutes so that it does not attract flies. The horse should be carefully observed for the first three days in case there is any protrusion of bowel or fat through the wound. This is most likely to occur in the first few hours and is more common in standard bred. If it is detected confine the horse, use moistened towels on the wound and call the vet urgently.


Choking can be a problem with horses because the esophagus (gullet. food pipe) is so long-1.5 meters—and so ran-row. In the heart region it narrows is even further. Choking is usually caused by a piece of carrot, turnip, potato, apple,or by the administration of gelatin capsules containing medication. Dry food such as corn, cut hay or chopped chaff, swallowed rapidly by a greedy feeder, can pack up in the gullet. The usual signs are difficulty in swallowing or complete inability to swallow, profuse salivation and evidence of spasm of the food pipe. The horse suddenly ceases to feed and makes several attempts to swallow or to get rid of the obstruction. There is marked evidence of distress. A veterinary surgeon should be called. If the obstruction is Inthe region of the back of the throat, the vet will attempts to remove it by using the gag. If the obstruction is further cloy the food pipe, a stomach tube can be used to gently push the obstruction into the stomach. Sometimes surgery is required to free the obstruction.


The term ‘colic’ means a set of symptoms that indicate severe or violent abdominal pain. True colic relates to those conditions arising in the stomach and intestines. False colic is caused by conditions affecting other abdominal organs, such as calculi (stones) in the bile duct, or ureter and acute infections of the bladder or genital organs. Colic is far more common in horses than in any other animal. This can be attributed to the small size of the stomach and its small digestive surface; the inability to vomit or unload the stomach; the great length of the intestines and the puckering of the large intestine which allows food or foreign bodies to lodge there; the great range of movement allowed to the intestine within the abdomen; the great frequency with which the horse is affected with internal para-sites; and the fact that the horse has to work at the direction of its owner. Colic is more common at night and is frequently connected with irregular feeding.
Dietary errors such as insufficient supply of water, neglect of regularity in feeding, and long fasts followed by the allowance of extra large feeds, or cold water are responsible for a large number of cases of colic. Preventive measures cannot be ignored in stable management. Im-proper food is most likely to cause harm when it is associated with sudden change of diet, imperfect mastication, greedy feeding or excessive quantity. Many foods, such as uncooked barley, corn, moldy food, badly made mouldy hay and wheat are notoriously indigestible. Overeating, as when a horse breaks into a feed shed, is a common cause.
Foreign bodies such as bits of metal, sand or earth will also cause abdominal pain. Sand is particularly a problem where horses are confined to small areas of sandy soil. Sand colic can still occur when horses are fed in feed tins off the ground—but the condition is more frequent in horses fed on the ground.
Water may cause colic if given in large quantities and very cold to a horse still sweating. Insufficient water and drinking from shallow, sandy pools can also cause problems.
Colic can also be caused by heavy work combined with irregular feedings. Many serious cases develop during high-stress work. Working the horse hard immediately after feeding may also cause colic.
Other causes, some of which cannot be prevented even by good management of the horse, are strangulated hernias, twisted bowels, defective secretion of digestive juices, lack of muscle tone, stricture of the bowel, wind-sucking and even nervous upsets, such as a long float trip or a bad thunderstorm.
The signs of colic can be mild or severe. A horse with a mild form of colic may be on its feet, with its neck out-stretched and upper lip curled back. It may look at its sides, paw the ground, yawn frequently (a common indication of pain), or just be off its food. In more severe cases the horsehorse will lie on the ground and roll continuously from one side to the other. The horse will begin to sweat, the mucous membranes will become darker and the pulse rate/heart rate will exceed 45. Once the heart rate exceeds 70 it in-variably indicates a serious form of colic which may require surgery. Because the causes of colic are so numerous and so varied, it is important to call the vet so that a full examination of the horse can commence in order to deter-mine exactly what is causing the colic. If the horse is lying down but not rolling, leave it be. If the horse is rolling, get it to its feet and keep it walking until the vet arrives.
One of the most common types of colic is impaction colic, which occurs when the horse becomes constipated. Constipation is indicated by reduced numbers of droppings per day, and reduced quantity, with the pebbles being very small and hard. The horse should be given a warm bran mash with molasses at each feed time until the droppings become soft. Some horses require bran mashes two to three times weekly in order to keep their digestive systems flow-ing.
Some hints on preventing colic:

  • Have the teeth checked regularly.
  • Worm regularly.
  • Provide a regular diet and water.
  • Don’t exercise on a full stomach.
  • Let the horse cool off after work before giving it food or water.
  • Adjust the food by consistency of the droppings; if the molasses to the diet.
  • Don’t feed green food unless the horse is used to it. Check food (especially bales of lucerne hay) for mold.


Constipation in newborn foals is quite common and is called retained meconium. It can be corrected by administering 30 milliliters of warm, soapy water to the rectum as an enema, and then using a finger to manually rake out the feces.
In older horses the condition is evidenced by hard, pebbly droppings in small quantities, and reduced frequency of defection. It can be corrected using warm bran mashes with molasses, linseed meal, boiled barley, increased bran content in the diet or 4.5 liters of medicinal paraffin oil. If the oil is administered by lay persons without a stomach tube, care must be taken to give the oil slowly so that it does not go into the lungs and cause pneumonia.


Coughing can be caused by viruses, allergies to dust or straw (which can be associated with broken wind), growths in the larynx of the horse (usually in old age), parasites(particularly migrating roundworms) which stimulate the horse to cough as they are brought up into the larynx for re-swallowing, pharyngitis caused by fungi, bacteria and viruses, and bronchopneumonia and pneumonia, both of which are caused by viruses, bacteria or foreign bodies such as medications that inadvertently go into the lungs rather than into the food pipe.
Coughing is not a disease on its own, but a symptom of many different conditions. In order to eliminate the cough it is important to determine what is causing it. If it originates from an inflammatory condition of the larynx, local cough pastes may have an effect. If the infection is bacterial, antibiotics will help, but if it is viral little can be done until the horse builds an immunity to the virus. Some countries now have vaccines against the influenza virus.
All horses with coughs should be rested for one week after the cough has gone.
Crib-biting Crib-biting, like wind-sucking and weaving, can become a problem with stabled horses suffering, boredom.
On the edges of the wall, or any projection in its stall or loose box the horse then arches its neck and swallows a quantity of air, at the same time emitting a peculiar characteristic grunting sound. Unfortunately, as horses are great mimics, other horses in the same stables are likely to acquire the habit. Young foals have been observed using their mother’s hock joints as a source of crib-biting. Chronic cribbers are usually hard to keep in condition; in bad cases this can amount to emaciation. Sometimes crib-biting can be a cause of colic. Crib-biting is classified as a vice and generally lowers the horse’s value.
Painting the edges of mangers, rails and boxes with unpleasant-tasting chemicals does not usually deter the determined crib-biter for long. Muzzles (with bars across the bottom) work in some cases. They enable the horse to pickup grain and to pull at hay, but not to grasp the edge of the manger. Once the muzzle is removed, however, the horse will begin crib-biting again. It is claimed that the horse is unable to crib-bite unless it has a vacuum in its mouth, and the use of a hollow bit tends to do away with the vacuum. Crib-biting horses are sometimes kept success-fully in loose boxes in racing establishments with the aid of electric wires strung 45 centimeters in from the walls of the box so that the horse cannot touch any solid object. Wide leather straps or metal chains placed tightly aroundthe horse’s throat will prevent the ingestion of air and diminish in number the horse’s attempts at cribbing. Reducing the horse’s boredom by putting it out to pasture will reduce the incidence of cribbing.


Cryptorchidism, or failure of normal descent of the testicles, is a relatively common condition in horses. One testicle can be involved or both. After the age of twelvemonths it is rare for retained testicles to descend. The con-dition is hereditary. Retention of one or both testicles can cause behavioral problems and the horse may become dangerous.
In monorchidism, where one testicle descends and the other is retained, the descended testicle should never be removed without removing the retained testicle. The reason is that the horse may be sold as a gelding—yet cause serious injury by its unpredictable behavior.


Dehydration occurs when there is a net deficiency of body fluids. It can occur when the horse is losing a lot of fluids because of diarrhea, or through increased sweating in working horses. It can also occur where horses fail to drink sufficiently. (This sometimes happens when a horse is sick or working under stress.) Varying degrees of dehydration with disturbances of electrolyte metabolism are far more common than one would expect. Signs can vary from sub-optimal performance, to the clinically obvious hide-bound appearance seen in severe cases. Dehydration can be identified by analysis of blood samples.
To prevent dehydration use a commercially available electrolyte mix in the horse’s food or water every day. Some horses are reluctant to take the electrolytes, so it is best to add them to the horse’s water. Give the water following exercise, when the horse is thirsty. As the horse drinks the water, keep topping it up to dilute the salts. If the horse will not take the electrolytes in food or water—even after adding a sweetener such as molasses—then use a stomach tube. Many trainers of racehorses have them stomach tubed once or twice weekly with electrolytes to prevent dehydration.
To test for dehydration, pinch and lift a fold of skin on the neck directly in front of the shoulder. The skin should immediately return to its normal position. If it stays in fold for more than three seconds, the horse is dehydrated.


In the suckling foal diarrhea will occur as a natural phenomenon when the mare comes into season.
In both foals and adult horses diarrhea may be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, the protozoan giardia, nervousness, oral antibiotics, electrolyte imbalances, parasites (this is very common) and dietary changes. Dietary causes include fresh lucerne. grazing on winter oats, bran mashes,molasses and damp feeds. The diarrhea may be apparently four to six times daily, while the horse is apparently otherwise normal. On the other hand the diarrhea may be more frequent and have a foul smell. This usually is due to blood and mucous membrane lining from the gut and is called dysentery. It is very serious and requires veterinary treatment urgently. The diagnosis and treatment of diarrhea is often very difficult. Sometimes massive wasting of body tissues can occur before treatment is effective. The diagnosis cause of diarrhea is based on microscopic examine the feces for worm parasite eggs and giardia, and cultures to locate causative bacteria. Blood counts are helpful in determining electrolyte abnormalities. Diarrhea in foals and horses is a condition that requires veterinary attention. In young foals particularly, it can progress to infection of joints and pneumonia.
The treatment of diarrhea cases depends on the of the disease. The owner should not deprive the horse of water, as this will only increase the possibility of hydration. The diet should be changed to increase the pollard and chaff, creating a bland diet and lucerne. Various treatment regimes under veterinarian.


A discharge means that there is an area of infection ing. This can be soft tissue (for example, an abscess_ muscle), an embedded foreign body, or decay oft – tooth. It is pointless cleaning the superficial discharge basic cause must be identified and treated.


Drenching usually refers to the oral administration of liquid medications. It is done for the purpose of correction of dehydration or feeding the sick horse.
It is also refer to the administration of these compounds via stomach tube. Stomach tubing is the insertion of a tube through the nostril and into the stomach of the horse is a delicate procedure, for if the tube enters the 11 n medication is administered the horse will die. Storring of horses should be left to a veterinary surgeon

Dropped Elbow (Radial Parallysts)

In this condition, which is caused by injury to thee ranerve where it passes over the front of the shoulder animal stands with the knee of the affected leg bent fetlock semi-flexed. .The lameness (paralysis) rapidly worsens, and if itduring a journey the horse may experience great in getting to a stable. The condition can also occur after horse has been lying on its side for some period operation (damage can be prevented by elevating the shoulder and pushing an inflated tyre-tube. The nerve may also be damaged by a car accident or a from another horse.
The animal can be put into slings for the first few or until it becomes accustomed to the loss of use of limb. Massage of the shoulder muscle for an hour daily is very helpful; sometimes electrical massage procedures help the muscle retain its tone. Beyond that, you can only wait for natural healing to take place. If no improvement after six weeks, euthanasia ma-only choice. Complete healing is a very long-term often up to six months.
The elbow will also drop, and the leg assume picture in severe lameness of the foot. However condition, the horse can draw the leg forward and


This is a filling of the head, legs, dependent parts of the chest, the prepuce and belly with fluid. It can occur as abnormal syndrome in mares in late pregnancy, but it is usually associated with a heart or circulation problem. If it occurs in one area (for example, one limb) only, the poor circulation may be due to infection or tight bandages.
Ear Disorders

Horses rarely have trouble with their ears. If there is an ear infection, the horse will carry its head on the side, or hold both ears in a lop-eared (horizontal) position.
Wind a wad of cotton-wool around the end of your finger and clean out the ear canal. If the infection is caused by ear-mites, these will be seen under a magnifying glass on the dirt on the cotton-wool; they are white and their legs can be seen moving. Ear-drops used for dogs and cats are suitable for use in the horse’s ear and will clear out the mites. The horse’s ear does not need routine cleaning out during grooming.


The main electrolytes are sodium, potassium, chloride and bicarbonate ions. These ions are lost in such body fluids as sweat, urine, diarrhea and saliva. Their function is to generate electrical impulses in the muscles of the body. Deficiencies lead to ineffective muscular movements and dehydration


Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain often associated with meningitis. It is caused by bacteria and viruses and can sometimes be a complication of strangles. Symptoms may range from dullness to head pushing and excitement. Suspected cases should be referred to a veterinary surgeon.

Equine Infectious Anaemia (Swamp Fever)

This is an acute or chronic viral disease of horses transmitted by biting flies, mosquitoes, or by injection of minute amounts of blood. It can also be transmitted by the ingestion of contaminated material. It is characterized by intermittent fever, loss of weight, progressive weakness,marked depression, and dropsy of the lower parts of the body. The disease also may exist in a subclinical form, in which the animal appears normal.
The disease is found in Europe, Japan, North America and Australia. As the virus is present in all the organs,blood, saliva, urine and milk of the horse, contamination of shared food and water supplies is common. There is no specific treatment for the disease.

Equine Piroplasmosis

This is a specific disease affecting horses, mules and don-keys, and is caused by the invasion of the red blood cells by a parasite. The symptoms are a high temperature and a yellow discoloration of the mucous membranes of the eye and mouth which after a few days become deep orange or reddish-brown in color. There is an irregular intermittent fever reaching 40.5-41°C. The urine may be a deep orange or reddish-brown color. The disease can be successfully treated with drugs.


Sometimes a horse suffering from an incurable illness or severe injuries must be put down. Drugs now available allow a horse to be put down with more dignity than if it were shot. However, if drugs are not available and the case is urgent, the horse can be shot with a .22 calibre rifle. The bullet should be aimed 10-12 centimeters above the eyes in the centre line of the forehead—the gun so angled that the bullet passes upwards through the brain to the spinal cord

Eye Disorders

• Cataracts
Cataract refers to an opacity which affects the lens of theeye. The lens becomes chalky so that light does not passthrough it. The cataract may be congenital (present in the foal at birth) or it may be progressive, which means that a small congenital cataract may become more extensive. The condition may be acquired during life as an extension from an eye infection, or it may result from injury. There is not yet a successful treatment for cataract in the horse

Fetlock Joint DIsorders

The most common problem with the fetlocks is an arthritic condition called ‘apple-joint’. This is often associated with wind galls or with puffy swellings at the side of the joint. Both of these conditions are caused by strain on the joint, usually when young immature horses are used for hard work, such as endurance, racing or jumping. The swelling of the joint and the windgalls are due to arthritis caused by overextension of the joint. If work continues the joint will gradually lose flexion, the horse will become sore and consequently lame.
If the horse is young, stop any forced exercise and spell the horse until three years of age. If the horse is older, rest for four months—but the prognosis is unfavorable long term, if the same hard work is contemplated. Antiphlogistine packs, epsom salts bandages or cold hosing for ten minutes four times daily, will help to reduce the swelling and heat in acute cases. The administration of anti-inflammatory agents (for example, phenylbutazone and cortisone) also is helpful in relieving this condition.
Blistering or pin-firing have very little long-term effect. Once the joints have enlarged and are hard, nothing can be done to reduce their size. If the horse has been in work and the joints are cool and not sore on flexion, the prognosis is favorable.
Other conditions of the fetlock joint, such as fractured sesamoids, dislocation of the sesamoids, fractures of the long-bones either side of the joint and deviation of the joint should all be left to the vet for discussion.


Fever is a rise in body temperature. The fevered horse usually looks depressed and feels hot, particularly its ears. The normal rectal temperature for an adult horse is 37.5-38.5°C. A stubby thick bulb ended thermometer is best. The thermometer should be shaken down to below normal temperature level, inserted along the wall of the rectum and left in place for one minute. The normal body temperature may be higher in animals during pregnancy,parturition, lactation and in the young animal.
Fevers can be caused by various organisms, viruses, toxic products, certain chemical agents, heat or sunstroke. A fever usually has three stages: a cold stage or shivering fit, a hot stage, and the decline of the fever. As a rule fever is a protective reaction of the body against invading organisms. Providing the fever is mild and not therefore endangering the nervous system, the heart or the digestive organs, clean stabling and good food alone are satisfactory treatments. The animal should be kept in a well-ventilated,clean box and provided with a comfortable bed. If the horse is normally rugged, it should have a light-weight rug sufficient to keep it warm without sweating. If it sweats leave the rug off. There should be a plentiful supply of fresh clean drinking water and the diet should be laxative and easily assimilated. If the fever looks suspiciously like a symptom of a contagious disease, the animal must beisolated. Once temperatures get over 39.4°C veterinary attention should be sought.

Filled Legs

Filled legs refers to swelling in the legs, usually from the coronet upwards around the cannon bone. It may occur in-one leg or all four. Where it occurs in one leg it is usually due to a blow or injury. Greasy heel is also a cause. Close examination usually reveals a small nick or mark, perhaps where the horse has struck itself, where a small infection has developed. The horse should be lightly worked, thencold hosed and an antiphlogistine or epsom salts bandage placed on the leg. An epsom salts bandage is made by spreading out a piece of cotton-wool sufficient to cover the affected area. Lightly sprinkle epsom salts over and dampen. Place around the affected area and bandage over. This should be repeated at least twice daily for three to four days. Spray the nick with an antibiotic solution.
Sometimes the hind legs or all four legs fill overnight, but after work in the morning the swelling subsides. This maybe associated with high-grain diets or a virus. If the swell-ing in any leg is hot and does not improve with the above treatment, seek advice as the horse will need antibiotics.

First Aid Box

This should contain the following:
• Twitch
• Wire cutters
• Sharp knife. scissors
• Pliers (for pulling nails from feet)
• 4 adhesive bandages, 7.5 centimeters wide
• 4 conforming bandages, 7.5 centimeters wide
• 1 roll of cotton-wool
• 100 milliliters general antibiotic
• 6 (20 milliliter) syringes and needles, 19 gauge 500 grams epsom salts
• 1 packet of antiphlogistine
• 200 milliliters 5 per cent formalin Mercurochrome, triple dye
• Antibiotic lotion for topical application Antibiotic powder
• Thermometer (thick end bulbed)Peroxide 3%
• Antiseptic wash (e.g. chlorhexidine)


This is a weeping wound—such as an open abscess site. It may be due to an infected bone, the root of a tooth, or to a foreign body lodged deep in the body (bits of stick, wire,or a nail in the foot). Fistulous withers (infections of the withers), and poll evil (infections of the poll of the head),also give rise to fistulas. In the case of weeping wounds or fistulas, the source of the problem must be dissected out,for the wound will not heal with irrigation alone. Once the cause is removed, treatment is the same as for abscesses


Anal flatulence in the horse is rarely offensive and is rarely a problem. It is almost always associated with a diet, particularly when the horse goes on to fresh diet. Some horses always break wind when they start.
Flatulent colic may arise from an obstruction bowel leading to a build-up of gas in the stomach_also occur when a hard-fed horse is given sudden lush green grass. New hay, especially if damp. may excess gas production. In these cases the animal has toms similar to those of spasmodic colic but the continuous and the animal frequently crouches but lies down. It will yawn, paw the ground and look Insides. There are frequent attempts at urination. A veterinary surgeon should be relieve the gas by stomach tube.

Fly Bites

Fly and other insect bites can cause a number of diseases in horses, particularly in Africa and South America. In Australia, for example, they develop the so-called Queen-itch. The bot-fly, although it does not bite the horse. irritates by its loud humming. As it circles around seek lay its eggs on the hair, it can annoy horses to the erg that they group together for defense, or else bolt to from it. Flies can annoy horses to such an extent that they may go off their food or lose weight. Flies congregating around the eyes can cause a conjunctivitis. Flies will also irritate wounds on a horse.


A common name for laminitis (fever of the foot).


The term ‘fracture’ is given to the breaking of a bent cartilage. Criticism is often made in the press and public if a horse that breaks its leg is destroyed. Fracture is often caused by a kick from another horse. Or the animal may fall on its muzzle and fracture the lower jaw, or base of the skull or neck. Jumping may result in fracture of the legs, spine or pelvis. Spinal fracture can occur when the animal is cast for surgery. Struggling during recovery can result in fractured limbs. Horses while lungeing have fallen on their head and fractured their neck. Spontaneous fracture of the legs, vertebrae of the back, or the shoulder, can all occur even at slow work. It can occur as a result of muscular incoordination and is the most probable explanation of these spontaneous fractures when they occur.
Sometimes a distinct crack is heard. Great lameness is apparent immediately and there may be excessive mobility or deformity of the part. Grating or grinding may be felt on movement of the area. Inability to bear weight is strongly suggestive of fracture, but not conclusive. Muscular twitching may be present and patchy sweating may occur. Pain is usually present.
In cases involving the nose there is usually deformity and hemorrhage and breathing may be noisy because of obstruction of the nasal passages.
Fractures of the ribs may cause paralysis of a limb and,if complicated by a punctured chest wall, may allow air to pass to and fro from the chest.
In cases of fracture of the skull (sometimes caused by rearing up in a stall) hemorrhage from the ear is common. If the fracture is severe, hemorrhage may occur into the brain causing death. If fractures occur behind the mid-section of the neck, paralysis of the diaphragm may occur.
Fractures of the spine cause paralysis and inability to raise the hindquarters.
In fracture of the limbs with displacement, there will be shortening of the limb.
The diagnosis of a fracture may be quite easy or very difficult. A major fracture of a long bone is easy, but a split pastern, pelvic fracture, and fractures of minor bones are difficult. When in doubt, X-rays are advised. Fractures are always a serious affliction and it is best to consult a vet for diagnosis and available treatment, if any
The action of excessive cold on the skin may produce frost-bite, a condition resembling a burn. Horses are capable of withstanding very cold weather without suffering, as long as they are well fed and are allowed to grow their natural protective coat of long hair. Minor forms of frostbite can occur on the lower legs, particularly if the animal is forced to stand in mud and water in cold weather. The wet, cold conditions can cause death of the surface cells of the skin and damage to the deeper layers. As in burns, dilation of the small blood vessels of the skin occurs followed by oozing of fluid through their walls into the surrounding spaces. This results in the skin becoming swollen and painful. Sometimes the affected area may be the size of a matchbox. The condition is called mud fever.

Frost Bite

To prevent problems, do not wash the horse’s legs in wintertime but dry the legs thoroughly without delay. If winter pasturing the horse, avoid ground that easily be-comes waterlogged. Always make sure that animals get sufficient food to keep them in good general condition throughout the winter.

Galls and Saddle Sores

Girth galls and saddle sores are eroded areas of skin which can eventually die and slough out, leaving a nasty open sore. They are caused by constant pressure from ill-fitting gear.
Predisposing causes include:
• Low withers, allowing the saddle to be displaced forwards. High withers, which are apt to be compressed by the pommel (front arch) of the saddle. Narrow chest, making it difficult to tighten the girth,sufficiently to prevent the saddle moving.
• Poor condition, causing the skin to be severely compressed between the gear and protruding bones.
• An awkward or tired rider, who rolls about or sits lopsidedly.
• Sweating, or the skin being wet from rain.
Galls may sometimes be prevented by leaving the saddle on for about half an hour after the horse finishes work toallow the blood to return gradually to the squashed vesselsand thus prevent their rupture (hematoma) from sudden forcible distension. Gradual return of blood without rupture of vessels will still allow fluid through the bruised vessels into the subcutaneous tissues. Galls should betreated first with cold water and astringent lotions to prevent further distension, and afterwards with moist heat andmassage to promote absorption of the fluid.
Once a gall or rub does appear, the horse must not beworked until the sore is completely healed. Spray the area with acriflavine, triple dye, mercurochrome or an antibiotic solution. Commercial sprays are available. Determine the cause of the injury and if necessary adjust the gear. Thick foam saddle pads and sheepskin girth-covers are good insurance against recurrence.


A gelding is a desexed male horse.


Glanders is a highly contagious disease of the lymphatic system caused by bacteria. It causes nodule development,ulcerations and degeneration in the respiratory passages orin the skin. It is a very difficult disease to treat, and requires veterinary attention. Australia and New Zealand are free of the disease.
Infection be exercised in handling diseased animals, for example, at post-mortems.
In horses, mules, and donkeys, infection can result fromthe inhalation of particles of nasal discharge floating in the atmosphere of the stables. The most frequent source is ingestion of the organism in water or food that has become contaminated with nasal discharge through the medium of mangers, nosebags, buckets and waterers. Sponges, rags and other grooming cloths also commonly convey the disease directly from nose to nose.
The incubation period can vary from a few days to months. The signs of the disease present themselves in two forms:
Glanders form (localised in the respiratory pass-ages.) Discharge from one or both nostrils of a sticky nature, snuffling breathing, ulcerations on the nasal mucous membranes, hard lumps in the glands under the jaw on the side on which nasal symptoms are apparent. Variable amount of fever. In acute cases, the whole face may become swollen, and the respirations of a characteristic wheezing, snuffling or snoring type. While the symptoms of nasal glanders are quite unmistakable, they should be differentiated from other similar disease.
Farcy form (nodule formation in the lymphatics of the legs, head, neck or other parts) Nodules or ‘buds’ and ulcers along their course. The ulcers do not show any tendency to heal. Both glanders and farcy can occur together.
In the case of an outbreak, destroy all affected animals as the disease is to all intents and purposes incurable. Dispose of carcasses (burn or bury). Other animals on the property should be isolated, as should in-contact animals on farms either side of the diseased animals. Call the vet.

Grass Sickness

Grass sickness is a very well-known disease in Scotland where it occurs year by year in epidemic form. Sporadic cases occur in England and Sweden, but most other countries are free of the disease. In Scotland it affects all breeds and any age group except suckling foals. The disease was originally thought to come from grass, particularly in horses having access to grass in the late spring after having been housed and fed on hard feed during the winter, but more recent opinion is that it is caused by a virus. Grass sickness is almost invariably fatal, as it produces non-reversible paralysis of the entire alimentary tract. The very rare cases that do survive would generally be better off dead as suffering is extreme.

Greasy Heel

Greasy heel is a dermatitis of the back of the pastern, and is particularly prevalent in damp conditions. The skin is inflamed and has a pussy discharge which forms a scab. Often horizontal cracks in the skin occur. The condition can become so painful that lameness occurs. Horses with white or pale-colored hair in the pastern region are more susceptible, as are horses that have had the feather cut from the fetlock, allowing water to run down the back of the pastern rather than drip off the feather.
Treatment is to ensure that the pasterns are dry all the time. Wash the affected legs down with an antibacterial soap or shampoo to remove excess exudate, towel dry gently, then apply mercurochrome, acriflavine or triple dye twice daily to the area. If this fails, an antibiotic, antifungalcorhisone cream should be applied three times daily after thorough washing and drying.


A hematoma is a soft, often painless swelling filled wit]blood. It can be caused by a kick, or by running into a:object. It is best to confine the horse to a stable for ten days, so that the ruptured vessel wall has time to repair. If its in an area that will allow a firm bandage, this will reduce the eventual size of the hematoma.
Most hematomas will eventually disappear of their own accord without leaving a blemish. If drainage of an especially large hematoma is desired, let it settle for ten day first. Drainage may be done under surgical asepsis, otherwise the hematoma will easily become infected.

Harvest Mites

The larval form of the harvest, mite is found in ‘grass, ha:and other fodder. When present on the skin in protected parts such as the heels and back of the fetlock, they produce marked skin irritation and often play some part giving rise to cracked heels or the so-called heel bug. The:can cause irritations of the mane and tail to form a dermatitis. This causes constant rubbing and loss of hair from the mane and the root of the tail.

Head Shaking

This condition is sometimes met with in riding horses, making them uncontrollable and extremely dangerous to ride. It should not be confused with head shaking as an attempt to escape from the pain inflicted on the mouth by a heavy handed rider. Irritation from ear mites, a badly fitting built too tight a throat latch or a sinus infection can all cause the problem.


Heat-stroke usually occurs on extremely hot, humid day in horses left to stand in the sun unprotected. Work in animals may also suffer heat exhaustion, but usually less severely. Heat-stroke is usually rapid in onset.
The symptoms are staggering, coma, labored breathing, slow an irregular pulse and usually a dry skin (dehydration). Rectal temperatures may reach 41.1°C or higher. Emergency treatment includes reducing body temperature by getting;the horse into the shade (an improvised shelter will do)spraying it with water, giving cold water enemas and applying cold packs to the head.
Veterinary attention is essential. Further treatment to combat shock involves administering saline or electrolyte intravenous drips. To help pre-vent laminitis, the feet should be immersed in cold water. Full recovery will take seven days of complete rest.

Hock Disorders Bog Spavin

Bog spavin is a soft distention of the joint membrane which is filled with joint fluid. It is most common in young animals or in those with more upright or straight legs. It is also more common in animals in which great strain is thrown upon the hocks (such as entire horses, aged stallions and breeding mares).
In recent acute cases the usual symptoms are heat, pain and marked lameness. Usually, however, the swelling is cold, painless, and fluctuating on pressure, and lameness is rare. Animals affected will commonly work well through-out their life without treatment and may experience few problems. In acute cases, cold applications with astringent lotions and massage are indicated. Provided there is no lameness or heat it is best left alone.

Bone Spavin

Bone spavin is the name given to a bone enlargement on the lower and inner aspect of the hock. It is regarded as hereditary disease. Conformation plays a large part. Whilst it may affect any hock, it is more likely to occur in hocks which when viewed from in front appear narrower or to taper towards the shank—and less likely in square hocks. Defective conformation also includes ‘small’ hocks, `tied-in’ hocks, ‘sickle-shaped’ hocks,and ‘cow’ hocks. These conformations constitute weaknesses, rendering the joint liable to inflammation under the stress of work.
Lameness is always most marked on starting after rest,but diminishes with exercise and in some instances disappears. The horse takes a short stride with the affected leg,the hock is not flexed normally, and as a result the toe of the shoe is frequently worn. Turning the horse in a small circle with the lame leg outside increases the lameness and the animal has a jerky way of taking the foot off the ground, possibly through increased pain when the joint is extended. Forced flexion of the joint will increase the lameness.
Hold the affected leg up in flexion for a minute or two and then release it and move the horse off. If the horse is lame from spavin there may be great aggravation of the lameness. It should be remembered that the same result will follow from sprained tendons, or any lameness at orbelow the hock.
In most instances the treatment for horses under twelve years of age is favorable—but not so favorable beyond this age. The best method of treatment is to pin-fire the affected area and apply a red mercurial blister into the punctures and around the whole enlargement. Repeat the blistering in about a month. By the end of the second month the animal should be better with no apparent lameness. If not, re-apply the blister.

Capped Hock

This condition is similar to capped elbow in that it is caused by a physical bruising of the bone of the hock. It is usually caused by the horse kicking its stable or float doors. This can be prevented by building a barrier in the stable or float that is about 60 centimeters wide at the height of the horse’s buttocks. A wooden or pipe rail will do the job. The condition will resolve itself (if not of longstanding) once physical contact stops, although the cure may be hastened by drainage of the area.


This is the name given to a swelling, as a result of a sprain,which is situated about a hand’s breadth below the point of the hock towards the inner side. It is seen in all breeds,but more commonly in harness and riding horses.
A frequent cause is landing on wet and slippery ground after jumping, and sliding along. Pulling horses up quickly onto their haunches or putting young horses at jumps too early are all predisposing causes. Bad conformation such as `sickle-shaped’ hocks or `tied-in’ hocks may predispose. Lameness may be present immediately after the accident. In the stable the leg is ‘favored’, with the heel raised and resting on the toe of the shoe. If made to move, the horse is inclined to go ‘on its toes’.
If the horse is not lame, treatment is not advisable. If there is lameness and swelling, the treatment advocated for sprained tendons should be followed. A wedge-heeled shoe is useful in the early stages. Sometimes lungeing four or five times a week over a low wall or pole is helpful. The jump is increased by a few centimeters each day till it reaches 1.2 meters.

Occult Spavin

This is the name given when there is no bony outgrowth as in bone spavin, but only an arthritis. The difference between this and bone spavin is that with occult spavin the lameness is continuous and does not diminish with exercise. In most cases the lameness becomes more pronounced with exercise.
The behavior of the lame leg when turning, wearing of the shoe at the toe, dropping of the quarter on the lame side and all other symptoms, are present as in bone spavin. There is no appreciable enlargement.
When this cause of lameness is diagnosed, line-firing-around the whole of the joint (but excluding the front of the bend of the joint) is necessary followed by rest for six to eight months. The prognosis, even with treatment, is unfavorable.

String halt

In this condition one or both of the hind legs are lifted in an exaggerated movement caused by over flexion of thehock. The cause of the disease is unknown, but it is thought that nervous diseases or degeneration of the sciatic nerve play a major role. Sometimes the condition occurs follow-ing damage to tendons as they pass over the nerves. Adhesions develop which interfere with the nerve. The con-dition can be variable ranging from very mild flexion at the walk to a marked jerking of the foot toward the abdomen. In most cases the condition is exaggerated when the horse is turning. Any breed may be affected. Mild cases do not hinder the horse’s usefulness
Surgery to remove a section of muscle tendon is the best that can be done and gives moderate success. Thorough
This is a swelling at the rear of the hind-leg just above the point of the hock and about 5 centimeters in front of the Achilles tendon. When pressed on one side with a finger,it will bulge out on the other side.
It is often present in young horses that have not done any work. Straight hocks tend to favor distention by allowing relaxation of the sheath around the tendons. Horses that are pulled up suddenly from galloping (especially in soft soil) or those that rear or kick violently are predisposed. In recently injured cases the area is hot, tense and painful. Usually, however, as in bog spavin the area is cold and not tender to touch. As the membrane becomes distended it bulges upwards and is evident on the inner aspect.
In acute cases cooling astringent applications are best,followed by pressure bandages, which should be applied most carefully, a layer of cotton-wool being moulded during the progression of the horse. Lameness may be continuous or intermittent. It is governed a great deal by the pace of the animal, being very noticeable at one pace and not at another—for example, in splint lameness the animal may walk soundly but trot lame. Exercise may increase or decrease the symptoms. In most instances of muscle injury the lameness becomes less during exercise but returns after the animal has cooled off. In an animal lame from occult spavin the lameness is almost always continuous. Lameness arising from acute arthritis is constant. A horse lame from bone disease or a strained tendon may merely appear to be stepping carefully.
When a horse becomes lame three things have to be determined: Which leg is it, or is more than one involved?Where is the seat of lameness? What is the cause of the lameness?
Lameness in the horse is such a vast subject and requires such expert knowledge in diagnosis and treatment that it is far outside the scope of this book. In fact, there are whole books written on lameness in the horse. By all means examine the horse yourself and if you can locate a swelling in the tendon, an abscess in the foot, a nail in the sole, thrush or other infection, or swelling of the fetlock joint, or seedy toe, well and good. But beyond those common ailments it is best to seek the advice of a good equine veterinarian.


Infections in the newborn foal, usually bacterial in origin,frequently involve the joints. Such infections (navel-ill,joint-ill) are sudden in onset—the foal goes off suck, is dull and dejected and has a high temperature, 40-41°C. Often pneumonia develops, characterized by increased respiratory rate and even respiratory distress. Some cases show abdominal pain and a degree of diarrhea. Many of these cases die very quickly unless antibiotic therapy is instituted very early. Once the foal’s temperature drops below nor-mal, treatment is rarely of any value.
Early sign of a cold — a slight purulent (pussy) discharge from the nose.
Infections in horses can be caused by viruses, bacteria,fungi or protozoa. They can be insect-transmitted or transmitted from one horse to the other directly by droplets(by coughing or sneezing). A generalized infection is usually indicated by a rise in temperature, loss of appetite,lethargy and usually some other symptoms such as diarrhea, pussy discharge from the nose, or coughing.
A localized infection is indicated by local swelling, heat and pain—for example, infection following a splinter under the skin or a nail in the foot. In all cases of infection it is best to consult a veterinary surgeon unless you know exactly what is causing the problem.

Infertility in the Mare

Infertility has a number of causes, one of the most common being failure to cycle. This may be merely the wrong time of the year—most mares cycle naturally from spring to the end of summer, with a peak time around summer. Sometimes failure to cycle is a behavioral problem which can be solved by putting the mare with other cycling mares. Sometimes it is a hormonal problem may be solved by the injection of artificial hormone. So=mares are silent cyclers, giving no indication that then season unless they are put out with a stallion paddock-served. The stallion can detect cycling.

Infectious Diseases

In most of the developed countries of the world, the most important infectious disease of horses are the influenza viruses which cause upper respiratory tract infections andviral abortion. Strangles is also highly contagious. There are many other infectious diseases, some of which are particularly prevalent in Third World countries. For information about these diseases, it is best to contact your veterinary surgeon.


Yellowish discoloration of the conjunctiva, the mucus membranes of the mouth and in the female the vulvathe common signs of jaundice. The urine nearly contains bile, giving it a yellow to orange colour. Jais seen in cases of equine piroplasmosis, dice in foals, infectious equine anaemia, protozoa viral diseases, chronic copper poisoning, phenothpoisoning, pasturing on rape or other poisonous plants, the bites of some snakes. Other symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite and discomfort may occur depend on the disease causing the jaundice.
The treatment of jaundice is dependent on the condition always requires veterinary attention.

Kidney Disease (Nephritis)

Kidney disease is very rare in the horse. Horseoften mistakenly call ‘tying-up’ or mild azoturia, disease. The muscles overlying the kidneys are some of first to be affected with the ‘tying-up’ syndrome. M 1–trainers give the horse a diuretic ball when they think inflammation of the kidneys. This tends to clear condition and relieve the soreness in the back simply cause it allows the muscles to be flushed out by the increased water intake caused by the administration diuretic ball.
True kidney disease is very rare but may be cause chemical poisons such as mercury, arsenic, copper, and carbon tetrachloride. Substances toxic kidneys are also produced during azoturia. Treatment depends on isolating the cause. Usually the horse has sufficient functional tissue to keep it alive but secretes volumes of poorly concentrated urine.
`Flooding of the box’, a condition in which the hot urinates frequently and drinks copious quantities of water is called water diabetes, and is caused by a deficiency of hormone which controls fluid retention. Injections available to supplement this deficiency and should be under veterinary supervision.


Lameness is any condition that affects one or more during the progression of the horse. Lameness may be continuous or intermittent. It is governed a great deal by the pace of the animal, being very noticeable at one pace and not at another—for example, in splint lameness the animal may walk soundly but trot lame. Exercise may increase or decrease the symptoms. In most instances of muscle injury the lameness becomes less during exercise but returns after the animal has cooled off. In an animal lame from occult spavin the lameness is almost always continuous. Lameness arising from acute arthritis is constant. A horse lame from bone disease or a strained tendon may merely appear to be stepping carefully.
When a horse becomes lame three things have to be determined: Which leg is it, or is more than one involved?Where is the seat of lameness? What is the cause of the lameness?
Lameness in the horse is such a vast subject and requires such expert knowledge in diagnosis and treatment that it is far outside the scope of this book. In fact, there are whole books written on lameness in the horse. By all means examine the horse yourself and if you can locate a swelling in the tendon, an abscess in the foot, a nail in the sole, thrush or other infection, or swelling of the fetlock joint, or seedy toe, well and good. But beyond those common ailments it is best to seek the advice of a good equine veterinarian.

Lung Conditions

The most common conditions affecting the lungs are pneumonia and bronchopneumonia, which are inflammatory conditions caused by a virus or bacteria, by fluid introduced during drenching, or by heavy infestation with large roundworms. The signs are heavy breathing and sometimes a cough and nasal discharge. Pneumonia is always serious and should be treated quickly with antibiotics.
Pleurisy is another inflammatory condition involving the pleural membrane which covers the lungs and lines the chest cavity. It is very painful, again very serious, and should be treated with antibiotics. It generally occurs with,or after, pneumonia. In both of these diseases the earliest symptoms are rapid and shallow respirations, fever, loss of appetite and dullness. The animal is not inclined to move.
The horse should be kept warm, rugged and put in under shelter in a loose box and allowed plenty of fresh air. Inhalation of Friars Balsam or Vicks VapoRub are useful. A dab of such an ointment can be placed just inside the nos-trils of the horse. An old remedy for relief of respiratory distress is to rub mustard paste on to the chest, add one-third of a cup of mustard to 4 cups of lard, mix, and rub the paste over the chest walls for two minutes.


Maggots are the larval stages of flies. They sometimes invade wounds, causing fly-strike. An infested wound should be cleaned up using a hose and any maggots physically removed. If there are sinuses hiding the maggots, an insec-ticidal powder can be applied to the wound. Although the idea turns most people’s stomachs, maggots rarely cause much damage to a wound—rather they tend to clean up any debris (that is, dead or decaying tissue). The main risk is that they may introduce bacterial infection. Prevent their appearance by the use of fly repellants


A healthy horse is one kept in a slim condition with the ribswell covered—overweight horses are always in danger of suffering laminitis (founder). Horses in poor condition are usually suffering from simple malnutrition. Horses arelarge and expensive to keep and many people cut cornerson feeding. (Other factors contributing to poor conditionmay be worms, bad teeth, cold weather, or an underlyingdisease problem.

Manure Eating

This can be due to a vitamin/mineral deficiency in which case it is called ‘pica’ . Place alump of rock salt in the feed tin and if necessary make clayavailable. Clay is a good source of calcium and is palatableto horses.
It can also be a ‘vice’ or due to a dietary imbalance.Make sure the diet is balanced and adequate in quantity.

Mouth Disorder

• Dry mouth
Dry mouth is a condition where the mucous membranes become very dry due to lack of saliva production. This isseen in cases of atropine poisoning (atropine is the activeingredient in Belladonna—an old remedy included incough pastes). In other cases there is no apparent cause. Inthe case of steeple chasers or polo ponies which suffer drymouth because of excitement, the administration of 225 grams of glucose in warm water in the last meal before racing or playing polo is advisable. An abnormal desire for water is seen in fever, water diabetes, and certain forms of gastritis, enteritis and kidney disease. Fever may cause horses to stand over water, just playing with it with their lips without actually drinking.
A gag locks the mouth open for examination of the mouth or teeth treatment.
• Glossitis (Inflammation of the tongue)
Glossitis is fairly common in the horse. The causes include direct injuries, reaction to irritant substances (biting at blisters applied to the legs, licking at chemicals), foreign bodies(grass seeds, splinters) in the tongue, irregularities of the teeth causing the horse to bite its tongue, and careless handling of the tongue during the process of rasping teeth or paste worming. Bits may also cause serious wounds.
In mild cases of glossitis apply a simple antiseptic mouth-wash, such as a 3 per cent solution of boric acid,and feed a diet of boiled porridge gruel and milk. Use a a large large disposable syringe without a needle to apply the mouth-wash. When the tongue is swollen, repeated cold-water irrigation will help. Some horses will tolerate irrigation with a slow-running hose.
• Lampas
This is a swelling of the soft palate just behind the incisor teeth. It is usually due to an inflammation of the gums in the young horse, when shedding the temporary or milk teeth. In the majority of cases the swelling will subside without medical treatment. It is a fallacy that lampas will affect the health of the horse.
In a parrot mouth the upper incisor teeth overlap the lower incisors.
Parrot mouth and undershot jaw
These are congenital deformities. In parrot mouth the up-per incisor teeth overlap the lower, and in undershot jaw the lower incisors overlap the top incisors. Such animals have difficulty in feeding. Bad cases may be unable to graze and hand feeding will be necessary.
• Quidding
A horse is said to be quidding when its food is rolled and twisted about in the mouth and finally ejected into the manger as a bolus. In most cases it is due to dental irregularities and can be readily fixed by a competent person ‘floating’ (rasping) the teeth.
• Shear mouth
Shear mouth is a condition in which the upper and lower molars overlap like the blades of shears. It is usually seen in old horses. Treatment is not satisfactory. It is usually due to irregularities in wear and age changes involving the shape of the lower jaw

Nail Prick

Sometimes when horses are being shod, the farrier may place a nail too near to the inner part of the wall and the sensitive tissues. In such a case the nail should be with-drawn immediately and the tract disinfected with tincture of iodine. If the nail enters the inner part of the wall it can cause a painful wound which can last a long time. In most instances, however, soaking in a bucket of warm water (with four tablespoons of epsom salts added) four or five times a day for a few days relieves the pain.

Guttural Pouch

The guttural pouch is a blind sac on either side throat of the horse. It is a distention of the Eustachian tube—its function is unknown.
They are quite susceptible to infection introduced way of the Eustachian tubes, usually being the aftermath strangles or other respiratory disease. There is a claritoim nasal discharge, which appears only during feeding when the head is lowered to eat from the ground, or to taithe bit, or during exercise. There may be interference wswallowing and respiration, and swelling at the base of ‘Lbear behind the jaw bone. Treatment is surgical. Call the veterinary surgeon.
The other problem affecting the guttural pouches is rpmpanitis (filled with air). It is found in foals or horses upone year. It results from a congenital defect which foa one-way valve resulting in the pouches inflating. Signare obvious. The area below the ear is distended and soft likeballoon. Treatment is surgical.

Nasal Discharges

A slight watery nasal discharge can be quite normal,merely a reaction to dust, but excessive watery dischargecan indicate early viral infection. This is generally ac-companied by a dull eye, loss of appetite, a slight fever anda cough. Pussy discharges from the nose indicate advancedviral infections, head colds caused by influenza viruses, andbacterial infections such as glanders and strangles. Pussydischarges can also indicate pneumonia or bronchial pneu-monia. A foul-smelling discharge from the nose indicates decaying roots of teeth, or possibly a tumour in the nasal passages. If the discharge is watery, or slightly pussy. The horse is bright, is eating and does not seem to be severely affected by the condition, there is no need for alarm.
Keep the horse warm and give plenty of fresh feed. Wipe the nostrils out regularly, and apply some Balsam or Vicks VapoRub inside the nostrils. Injection 500 milligrams of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) daily are as helpful. If the horse is coughing, it may be relieved after applying to the back of the tongue one of the available cough pastes.
However, if the nasal discharge becomes copious. the horse has a temperature higher than 39.4°C, or is off its feed, then the vet should be called.

Navicular Disease

Not all horses affected with navicular disease are in painand not all will go lame, but in most cases attention isdrawn to the problem because the horse is lame. Usually the horse first goes lame very suddenly; the lameness may disappear or settle down to a slight lameness. The horse may be uneasy and restless, adopting a slight rocking action. As time goes on it points its fore feet; if both feet area affected the horse will point first one foot and then the other. Navicular disease rarely affects the hind feet. If thehorse is taken out and warmed up by exercise, the lameness will probably be relieved; but if the horse is left to cool offand then moved again when cold, the lameness will re-appear. For the first few steps it will be more severe. Observe the action—flexion and extension of the lower pasternand the foot will be diminished, and the toe of the shoemay show wear as the horse puts its toes down first. This solid, block-like action of the foot will increase as the disease progresses. The stride becomes shorter, and as the feetare put down flat, like a block, the term ‘blocking lameness’is used. Sole bruising from constant landing on the toe should be kept in mind when using hoof testers.
The first corrective shoe for the victim of the disease isone that has a roll toe. This results in the horse’s foot`breaking over’ more quickly, so there tends to be a slight shortening of stride. The heel of the shoe should be thickened so that it is about one and a half times the thick-ness of the toe of the shoe. The outer half of the sole surface of the shoe is chamfered to three-quarters of its thick-ness from the last nail hole back, and the inner edge of thesole surface is fined down so that it is no longer pressingon the wall of the foot. Cutting the nerve (neurectomy) should be discussed with your vet. The prognosis in all cases of navicular disease is unfavourable.


Cutting of a nerve, as a treatment for navicular disease.

Old Age

The first five years of a horse’s life may be considered equivalent to the first twenty years of our life. At seventeen years of age, which probably represents fifteen years’ work, most horses are past their physical best. Deterioration of their teeth probably prevents most horses from reaching aripe old age. In general, ponies are much longer lived than horses. Instances are on record of animals attaining the age fifty, and one is attested to have lived to sixty-three, but the average for ponies is probably thirty-five and for horses thirty. As horses get very old it becomes more and more difficult to keep weight on them and emaciation is the usualcause of death.
The following points will help keep the aged horse ingood health.
• Worm every three months.
• Have horse’s teeth checked every six months.
• Rug the horse in cold weather.
• Give regular and gentle exercise.
• Hand-feed as soon as there is any sign of weight loss.Trim the feet every six weeks.
• Groom and pick out feet daily.
• Opening Up Behind
In this condition the anal sphincter relaxes, allowing air topass into the rectum. It usually occurs after a long trainingcampaign and is due to fatigue. The horse should be rested. Good results are also achieved with anabolic steroid injec-tions administered by the vet.

Open Knees

Open knees is the term used to describe a horizontal depression at the top of the knee in immature horses. Horses should not be given hard work until this disappears. If worked, other conditions are more likely to occur such as hind soreness, carpitis, chipped bones in the knee, and tendon problems.

Patella Locking

Locked patella is a condition usually seen in horses that are very straight in the hindlegs. It occurs more frequently in horses just out of the paddock in debility and poor con-dition in the initial stages of their training. The leg locks in a stiff, outstretched position. To unlock the leg, push thehorse backwards or alternatively wrap a soft rope around the pastern and pull the leg forward. In less extreme cases the patella slips in and out of position as the horse moves,and a clicking noise may be heard. The horse characteristically drops its toe. Call your vet and discuss the problem, as it is likely to recur. Surgery is available.

Pedal Bone Fracture

This is a fracture in the lowermost bone of the leg. The bone is within the hoof. The cause can be as simple asturning quickly or landing the wrong way. Horses suffer this type of a fracture when racing. The signs are acute lameness and the sole of the foot is very sensitive to pressure. In most instances fractures of this nature will heal readily with a shoe that has a bar across the heel and fourclips equally spaced around the circumference of the hoofwall. This holds the foot together and the fracture in place. Keep the horse strictly confined in a box for eight weeks. It should then be rested for six months in a soft paddock and X-rayed to determine that healing is complete. If the fracture involves the joint and the horse is very valuable. Surgery can be performed by a veterinary surgeon to compress the fracture site with screws.

Pedal Osteitis

Pedal osteitis is an inflammatory condition, usually caused by repeated concussion, in the last bone of the foot (which is enclosed by the hoof). It is one of the most common causes of lameness and is usually found in horses that work at a fast pace such as jumpers, race horses and standard-breds. The inflammatory reaction in the foot begins to dis-solve the bone, causing tenderness. The horse may stepshort, particularly if it is made to run over loose gravel so that the pain is accentuated. X-rays will confirm the diagnosis.
The most effective treatment is to turn the horse out onto soft land for six months. If the horse must continue working, it should be shod with special light, wide shoes.which sit on the wall of the hoof to eliminate any pressureon the sole. The heel should be thick, and the toe half the thickness of the heel. The toe of the shoe should be more square than round and rolled at the bottom. This producesa slight rocker effect


Demulcents are frequently used in the treatment of poisoning. These are drugs of a viscous character which protect mucous membranes from irritation—for example, gumacacia, purified honey, glycerine and starch.

Arsenic Poisoning

Chronic arsenic poisoning affects the complete body haircoat. The usual symptoms are a long-haired coat, heavyscurf development and emaciation, even though the appetite is normal. The usual cause is over-use of arsenical tonics. These tonics are used to stimulate the appetite of horses in full work. The usual method of diagnosis is ill-thrift after a time in training when arsenical tonics are known to be used. Many horses make a slow recovery if the cumulative dose is not too high. Many others die unless restored to good condition by supplementary feeding on arsenical tonic with gradual weaning off the tonic as the condition improves. Treatment with injectable organic arsenic compound gives a dramatic response. During the administration of the tonic, the horse’s body becomes dependent (addicted) and a sudden withdrawal causes collapse ofthe horse’s metabolic system.

Copper Poisoning

Chronic copper poisoning can occur where low molybdenum levels enhance copper storage in pastures. Treat-ment is to use demulcents and iron filings which attract andfix the copper, or potassium ferrocyanide which produces a comparatively insoluble and harmless salt.
Acute cases have severe diarrhea and colic with characteristic blue-green mucous membranes. Chronic cases have thirst, no appetite, red-colored urine and jaundice. If detected and treated early, the prognosis is good.

Lead Poisoning

Acute lead poisoning is very rare in the horse. It can result from pasturing near rifle ranges and picking up bulletspray, grazing on pastures near smelting furnaces, drinking water from lead piping recently installed and licking lead batteries and paint. Symptoms include rigors, colic, grinding of the teeth and constipation, followed by diarrhea.
Under no circumstances should oil be given in any form as this renders the lead more soluble. Large doses of epsomsalts-1 kilogram of epsom salts in 9 litres of water—should be given, thus bringing about the formation of insoluble lead sulphate. Prognosis depends on the amount ingested but is usually favourable if treated early.
Other types of poisoning include the ingestion of such things as rodenticides, insecticides, fumigants and molds. In most cases there are nospecific antidotes and treatment consists of controlling symptoms. Where the poison is known, contact your vet orthe poisons centre at a hospital.

Poisonous Plants

As a general rule animals will not eat poisonous plants ifthere is plenty of other food available. Inadvertent poisoning can happen—for example, poisoning from ragwort included in hay.
Acorn poisoning occurs in early spring when grass isscarce and the horse eats the new green leaves of the oaktree. Cases resemble impaction colic. Treatment consists oflarge doses of liquid paraffin.
Bracken poisoning can be caused by the green plants,and by bracken cut in the green state, then dried andstacked. The poison is an enzyme which destroys vitaminB1 and is cumulative. There is progressive loss of condition, a general unthrifty appearance and a slow pulse.The appetite remains fairly good but the horse loses its rotund belly and becomes tucked-up and hollow in the flanks. Treat with repeated injections of vitamin B1.
A utumn crocus or meadow saffron will poison horses ifthey eat the leaves in the spring. The symptoms are ab-dominal pain, violent purgation and straining. The only treatment is using demulcents to soothe the bowels.
Privet poisoning causes a loss of power in the hind-quarters, the mucous membranes become congested, andthe pupils are dilated. Death occurs in thirty-six to forty-eight hours. Symptoms of colic and unsteadiness in the gaitare common. Treatment is to relieve the horse of the colicand treat the horse symptomatically. Horses usually dievery quickly if they have taken a reasonable dose of privet.
Ragwort poisoning usually follows the ingestion of hayharvested with ragwort. The common symptoms are colicwith subsequent death at variable periods up to a few days.In the chronic case there is a loss of condition, loss of appe-tite, dullness, the gait is staggering and there is constipation, or sometimes diarrhea. Because the condition affects the liver, mucous membranes are pale and may be jaundiced. There is no satisfactory treatment.
Vetch can also induce liver damage in the horse and the horse will be sensitive to sunlight.
Yew is by far the commonest form of plant poisoning encountered in Great Britain. All parts of the tree are poisonous. The alkaloid taxine is the active principle andoccurs in the leaves of all species but in only a small proportion in the berries. Horses will eat yew at any time, and cases of yew poisoning usually occur when straying from pastures or eating overhanging branches. The alkaloid is rapidly absorbed and exercises its chief effect on the heart. Symptoms—rarely observed, because the animal is usually already dead when found—are trembling, difficulty in breathing, collapse, and then death within five minutes. Treatment must of course be immediate. Purgatives and demulcents are indicated and stimulants such as large quantities of strong coffee should be given frequently. It is best if purgatives are given by injection to ensure a quick action. The heart’s action should be supported by injections of adrenalin.
Walkabout disease (Kimberley horse disease) is commonin north-western Australia and the Northern Territory. Itis due to ingestion of certain native plants restricted to areas with low river banks and flats which are subject to periodic flooding. Cases are seen mainly in the wet seasonand involve a loss of weight, depression alternating withperiods of excitement, and compulsive walking. There is no treatment and the prognosis is poor.
Birdsville horse disease is seen in south-western Queens-land and central Australia. It is usually seen in summer in average seasons about six weeks after rain. It is due to the ingestion of Indigophera; the minimum toxic amount is 4 kilograms per day for at least two weeks. The symptoms are rapid and extreme loss of weight, loss of appetite, depression, sleepiness and toe dragging. There is no treatment, but an animal may recover completely if it is only mildly affected.
Coastal ataxia is seen along a 450-kilometer wide strip of the central Queensland coast in horses on overgrazed paddocks in which Gomphrena has become the dominant plant. This is readily eaten by horses, but large quantities have to be eaten over a month or more for symptoms to develop. Symptoms include dullness, loss of appetite, sway-ing of the hind quarters and dragging of the toes, and feet placed wide apart with swaying of the body from side to side. There are no known treatments; prognosis is poor.
Selenosis (also known as change-of-hoof disease, alkali disease, blind staggers). Selenium toxicity is associated with eating plants called Morinda neptunia and Astragalus, which are found in various parts of the world. If the ani-mals are diagnosed early, treatment with sodium arseniteor arsenilic acid is useful. Selenosis usually affects the mane, tail and hooves. The horse has a stilted gait with unnatural stance. The mane and tail hairs fall out and there is a transverse separation of the wall of the hoof at the coronary band. Acute cases may slough the hooves.
The list of poisons and poison plants is never ending.Contact your vet or local Department of Agriculture for more comprehensive lists.

Poll Evil

Poll evil and fistulous withers are similar conditions which affect separate regions. Both are caused by a physical injury to a bony prominence—either the poll at the top of the head or the withers. Ultimately an infection is set up which leads to a deep-seated death of tissues and the development of a constant pussy sinus. Poultices or antiphlogistine should be applied to the area. Once sinus formation is present, culture the organism and determine which antibiotic touse. Usually these conditions require surgical eradication of the dead tissue before the sinus will clear up.


A sign indicating worm infestation in the horse.


This is the term applied to a persistent, pussy sore opening at or near the coronet. The cause in most cases is direct injury such as being stepped on by another horse, thus injuring the lateral cartilage. It may also arise in an indirect way following an infection within the hoof when the outlet in the sole is obstructed and the pus moves upwards, following the line of least resistance. This may be the resultof a puncture to the foot, a corn or a sandcrack.
Early cases of quittor will respond to irrigation of thetract with a 20 per cent silver nitrate solution, followed inten minutes by saline solution to neutralise the silver ni-trate. In chronic cases successful treatment depends uponremoval of the dead or infected tissue; in most cases thisinvolves surgery on the cartilage.


Signs of rickets can occur in horses up to three, but foals between six months and twelve months are commonly affected. In older horses demineralization of the bone can occur as a result of calcium or vitamin C deficiencies.
Rickets in horses is primarily a disease of the bones rather than the joint itself. (The epiphysis is either the joint and is the growth centre for the long arthritis of the knee, the pastern, and the fetlock joints may also occur. The arthritis of these joints follows stresses resulting from conformational charto rickets.


Ringbone is a new bone growth which may involve thearticular surfaces of the pastern or coffin joints or may sur-round the articular surfaces and interfere with overlyingtendons and structures causing lameness. It can be causedby wounds such as wire cuts or abrasions to the pasterns,or it may be due to a congenital abnormality. The treatment of the condition is usually unsuccessful, but it may help the horse to be given anti-inflammatory agents. Corrective shoeing consists of shortening the toe and applyinga full roller motion shoe. The prognosis for ringbone involving the joints is poor. For ringbone outside the joints, prognosis is guarded


This is a condition usually seen in thoroughbreds or hunt-ing horses and is only noticed at a very fast gait. The horsemakes a roaring noise because a paralysed vocal cord actsas a reed in the passage of wind through the larynx. This may act as an obstruction to the free passage of air and make the horse breathless at speed. The condition can be corrected by surgery, but unless the animal is very valuable, surgery is not recommended.

Runny Eyes

Runny eyes may indicate infestation by habronema

Ruptured Bladder

Ruptured bladder occurs in the first thirty-six to seventy-two hours, with the foal initially straining and then its abdomen beginning to swell. The foal fails to urinate. The mucous membranes become pale and the foal is unwilling to nurse. Some foals may show signs of blindness, while others convulse. Avet should be called immediately to perform surgery to save the foal.


Excessive production of saliva may arise from inflammation of the mouth, abnormal conditions of the teeth and the presence of foreign bodies such as a stick caught between the teeth. Paralysis of the pharynx, the esophagus or the lips may prevent saliva being swallowed so that the horse drools. It is often seen in greedy horses anticipating feed


Sandcrack is a vertical crack or split in the wall of the hoof. Such cracks vary in length and depth, but true sandcrack extends from the upper border (coronet) to the lower bor-der of the wall. It begins at or near the coronet. Some sandcracks are so deep that they reach the sensitive tissues.These tissues may suffer direct injury, and foreign bodiessuch as grit or sand may gain access, causing the area to become infected. When this occurs, there is pain and the horse may be very lame.
Small shallow cracks that extend upwards from the edge of the hoof should not be ignored, but they usually cause little trouble. They arise as a direct injury and in these cases, the horn is usually dry and brittle. When a horse puts its weight on a foot affected with a sandcrack, the crack tends to open and shut, causing the split to extend. Any new horn growth continues to split. Remedies are designed to stop further splitting of the hoof and allow a sandcrack to grow out. The simplest method is to rasp across the topof the split if it begins at the bottom of the wall. If the split begins at the coronet, rasp around the bottom. Othermethods include transfixing with a horizontal clenchedhorseshoe nail, filling with epoxy glue or plastic, and corrective shoeing using clips either side of the crack.

Seedy Toe

Seedy toe is the formation of cavities between the outerwall of the hoof and the inner sensitive layers. It usually occurs around the toe area, right at the edge of the sole andthe white line, but may occur anywhere between the toe and the heel. To correct this condition, allow the blacksmith to trim the foot back as far as possible. The cavity of the seedy toe should then be thoroughly cleaned out, disinfected with tincture of iodine and packed with stockholm tar. The growth of good new horn can be promoted by rubbing a light blister around the coronet ofthe foot.

Sesamoid Bone Disorders

The sesamoids are two small bones at the rear of the fetlock joint. They can be fractured in animals that perform vig-orous sports, such as racehorses or endurance horses. A more common condition is sesamoiditis which is an inflammatory process around the top of the sesamoid dueto tearing of the suspensory ligament. In these cases the animal should be rested and poultices applied to the joint.In the case of fractures the horse will need a twelve months’spell; seek the advice of a veterinary surgeon.

Shin Soreness

This is a condition seen in young horses, usually yearlings or two-year-olds, which are suddenly asked to perform galloping exercises. Work over excessively hard ground ex-acerbates the problem. The horse steps short in front, andif rubbed down the front of the cannon bone it reacts pain-fully. In the latter stages of shin soreness there may be aswelling about midway down the cannon bone. If the workis stopped, the condition will recede. Applications of poultices to the area will hasten a return to normal, but a spell of several months is essential. It is due to immaturity of thebones.


This is generally regarded as a nervous disease. When the horse lifts a hindleg, or moves backwards, the limb is suddenly raised, semi-flexed and moved out away from the body, shaking and shivering in suspension. It occurs sometimes after diseases such as influenza, after strangles or asevere Tall is seen Frequently riaderrm violent sports such as polo and polocrosse, and sometimes in race-horses. Shivering is also seen in the initial stages of a fever or when the horse is cold, but this is natural, not a disease.There is no treatment for a true shiverer and the horse is regarded as unsound.


Forms in the external cartilages in the heel region. Flexibility ofthe heels is lost. The cartilages are enlarged and tender, with hardening which causes lameness.

Skin Disorders

• Bacterial Acne (Saddle Boils, Dermatitis, Heat Rash)
Commonly seen under the saddle-cloth, over the back, loinand rib cage or wherever harness has contact with thehorse’s skin. It is frequently caused by dirty harness, andit affects sweaty and ungroomed horses kept in unhygienic conditions. They are small (1-2 mm) areas of raised skin which are extremely painful and hot. The sores usually have a sticky yellow discharge and form scabs. This con-dition should not be confused with Queensland itch, flybite and food allergies. Harness from affected horses should be sterilized and a fresh saddle-cloth used for each ride. The condition is not infectious. The condition can be cured by shampooing with an iodine shampoo for three consecutive days; recovery takes about seven days.
• Bursattee (Leeches, kunkers, Florida Horse Leech, Phycomycosis, Swamp Cancer and Equine Granuloma)
This condition usually appears-on the legs and lower abdo-men, the head, the neck and the ribs. Is is caused by a fungal-like organism. It appears as a chronic, granulatedwound covered with a mucoid discharge, draining from one or several sinuses. Severe itchiness is present, and self-mutilation is common. It should be differentiated from sarcoid and wounds caused by parasitic larvae. Bursattee is best treated by surgical excision of the lesions and twice weekly intravenous sodium iodide injections for four weeks.
• Cattle Rick Bites
Cattle tick bites are usually found on the legs and lower portions of the body but can affect the horse all over. They leave small, swollen areas with raised hair. Infestation inlarge numbers will cause loss of condition. The horse may bite affected parts, causing self-mutilation. Remove ticks with your fingers or with tweezers. Spray the horse with 0.025 per cent Dursban or 0.25 per cent Malathion(fortnightly) to prevent infestation.
• Dandruff
Dandruff is a condition in which the skin becomes scaly, and the coat dry and dirty. In some instances the skin b-comes reddened and the hair falls out. Dandruff may resultfrom lack of exercise and grooming.
Sweating should be induced by lungeing or riding, and the animal should be thoroughly washed with a medicated soap or shampoo. It is essential to leave a medicated shampoo in contact with the skin for at least fifteen to thirty minutes. Then ensure that all of the soap is rinsed off andthe animal dried thoroughly. The animal’s diet should include a generous quantity of carrots and 60 milliliters of linseed oil daily. The animal should also be examined for worm infestation. Sometimes a course of tonics is useful.
• Equine Coital Exanthema
In equine coital exanthema (in the male horse) the penis and reflection of the prepuce or (in the female horse) the external skin and internal mucous membranes of the vulva are affected with multiple discrete sores. The lesions first appear as slight wounds or watery blisters which quickly change to a yellowish dead type of ulcer. The cause is avirus. It is usually self-limiting, running its course in four-teen to twenty-eight days. Sexual rest is essential, as the disease is highly contagious. There are no after-effects ofthe disease and it is not notifiable.
• Irritant Dermatitis
Irritant dermatitis can appear on the surface of any part of the horse’s body. Usually there is severe irritation with self-mutilation caused by biting or by rubbing the body sur-faces on fences. There are weeping areas. Generally the hair is roughened and the skin is hypersensitive to scratch-ing. The cause can be contact with irritant chemicals such as Stockholm tar, kerosene or insecticides, mange and Queensland itch cures, or bacterial infection.
Shampoo the entire horse and wash all soap from the body. Apply a 2.5 per cent lime sulphur wash to all affected areas. Antibiotic corticosteroid ointments can be applied to local areas of dermatitis.
• Lice Infestation
Lice frequent long-haired areas—manes and tails. Heavy infestation may occur all over the body. It may occur as district outbreaks transmitted by mutual grooming, birds or unhygienic harness. Usually there is intense itching and the horse rubs the affected site vigorously. This is associated with loss of hair on the body and scrubbing of the hairs onthe mane and tail. Horses will sometimes bite the infested areas. Self-trauma can make the bites look like Queenslanditch, mange or stable-fly bite. Clip the mane if possible and wash the horse with 0.5 per cent dieldrin solution or 0.1 percent DDT solution. Repeat in several days’ time. Chorioptic mange with the typical hair loss and scurfing ofthe skin.
• Mange
Mange in a horse is usually confined to the legs below the knee and hock, but in severe cases it may extend to the belly and the inside of the front legs and groin. It is caused by a small mite. Affected areas become inflamed, the skin flakes and becomes cracked with inflammatory exudate. Horses stamp their feet, bite their legs, and rub their legs with their head.
The disease will transmit between horses on their harnessor grooming implements.
All of the affected areas should be scrubbed with 0.1 percent BHC once weekly for three weeks.
Hard lumps which develop around the anus and base ofthe tail indicate melanoma.
• Melanoma
Melanoma (skin cancer) is usually found around the anus and (in the female) around the vulva’ lips, under the line of the tail, and on the underside of the tail. Isolated tumors under the skin may occur anywhere on the body. Melanoma is much more frequent in grey horses.
Surgical excision should only be performed where the tumors are isolated, and occur on general body surfaces. When the tumour occurs around the perianal area, surgery is not advisable because of the danger of secondaries and the inaccessibility of the tumor. The tumours are painless unless they grow in wards and create mechanical problems with the rectum. The prognosis long-term is poor.
• Mosquito Bites
Some horses are very sensitive to mosquito bites, which are found all over the body as small swellings with raised hair. As in humans the bites are itchy. Horses should be rugged, put in mosquito-proof stalls or sprayed with insect repellants. The treatment is similar to that for Queenslanditch as described below.
In most cases of Queensland itch the irritation usually begins on the topline of the horse between the mane and the tail.
• Queensland itch
Queensland itch, an allergic dermatitis caused by the horse’s sensitivity to the bites of flies, usually affects the top line of the horse, especially the ears, the mane, the withers and the tail. The most common symptom is excessive itching and rubbing of the withers and tail, which causes loss of hair and self-inflicted sores. The skin becomes thickened and wrinkled. In horses in the southern hemisphere this condition is seen most commonly between December and May. Hair regrowth on damaged areas begins in late winter.
Treatment of Queensland itch is largely symptomatic. There is no cure but time. Preventive measures includetugging the horse between 4 p.m. and 7 a.m. nightly, and keeping the horse in fly-proof stables during the summer period. Local treatment with antihistamine cream is help-ful. Individual horses can also be rubbed or sprayed with insecticidal agents. A good, cheap, but oily treatment is to paint affected areas with used ‘sump oil’ from motor engines. The condition is very hard to control until the flyseason is past.
The face is a common site of infection from rain scald.

Rain Scald (Aphis, Sunburn, Greasy Heel, Swamp Fever)

The usual sites are the loins, saddle, face, muzzle and lower portions of the body. Characteristic signs are the matting together of long hair of the coat. Closer examination show slower layers of the hair firmly matted in plaques with pusat the bottom. These hair clumps can be plucked out, leaving a bleeding surface. The affected area is sore to touch. With greasy heel, horses show acute lameness because of cracking of the skin at the rear of the pastern and fetlockregion. Swelling of the fetlock and lower cannon region is also common.
The condition is the result of infection with a bacterium (Dermatophilus) occurring in prolonged periods of wet and overcast weather conditions. Rapid spread is caused byflies, mosquitoes and birds. It usually only occurs in horsesleft in paddocks without rugs. Harness can be contaminated if used on affected horses.
The most successful treatment is 0.25 per centchloramphenicol in water applied with a brush for two consecutive days. Sometimes antibiotic therapy is necessary.Ordinary washing-up detergents are also effective—but it is essential to remove all plaques so that the detergent canreach the skin. Local areas, such as greasy heel, can betreated with an ointment containing cortisone and anti-biotic.


Ringworm affects mainly the girth area, shoulders andloins. Sometimes generalized infections can be caused by the use of contaminated grooming gear. The symptoms usually commence with raised hair and roughened skin. Examination may irritate the horse. The hairs usually have scab encrusted around the base and may be easily plucked out to leave a grey, moist, glistening area. The lesions lose their hair three to ten days after the infection starts; hair regrowth commences about thirty days after infection. The condition in the early stages should be distinguished from allergies; and in the latter stages from Queensland itch.
All scabs and scales should be removed from the infected sites and burned. As this condition may affect humans,wear plastic gloves when treating the horse. All the soresshould be scrubbed daily with 10 per cent thiabenzole, or 2.5 per cent lime sulphur or 0.5 per cent Ectimar. Where only a small number of sores need to be treated, 10 per centiodine can be used. All contaminated gear should bescrubbed with 0.3 per cent halomid; each horse should have its own grooming gear. Ringworm is a highly infectious fungus. Outbreaks often occur after long periods of damp weather.

Sarcoids (Skin Tumors)

Sarcoids appear on the chest, head, neck and lower limbs and in multiple growths anywhere on the horse’s body.They are skin tumors usually raised above the surface ofthe skin. They appear as nodules in and under the skin and are usually hairless and smooth. They may be pink or pigmented in colour. In advanced cases ulceration occurs.There are two forms of sarcoid, one with a pedicle (stem)and the other flattened against the skin. They are usually resistant to local treatment, but some success may be achieved with 50 per cent podophylline in alcohol applied daily for up to thirty days. Care must be taken to restrict the application to the affected area; the normal skin around the lesion should be protected with soft paraffin. Excellent results are now being achieved with radiation therapy. If left untreated, sarcoids progress in size until they cause physical problems, especially for harness.


The majority of permanent scars are found on the limbs.The head and chest are often common sites. Scars may be the result of burns or sunburn, of trauma from wire or a foreign body, or of the application of blisters. The original wound has usually healed and is quite satisfactory from ahealth point of view but is cosmetically undesirable. Scar tissue can be surgically removed only if the remaining skin can be closed or skin grafts applied. Otherwise, it is usually preferable to leave it untouched. Lanolin cream keeps theskin soft and prevents cracking. To prevent scar formation on a fresh wound, keep the area moist with zinc or lanolin cream while healing occurs. Where possible, bandage.

Scrub Itch (Tromiaidiosis)

Scrub itch usually occurs on the legs and on the lower abdomen, but can be generalised. It is caused by the micro-scopic red grass mites which gather in clusters on the horsein spring and summer. It is more likely to occur if there are heavily grassed areas nearby. The mouth parts of the mites are buried in the horse’s skin causing severe irritation. The horse bites itself and stamps its feet vigorously. Malathion spray or 1 per cent DDT should be used on stables and bedding to control the mites. Wash or spray the legs witha 5 per cent lime sulphur or Malathion solution.

Sebaceous cysts

These are unsightly but harmless lumps which appear onthe midline of the horse anywhere from -the withers to the tail. They do not irritate the horse, unless under harness, but are unattractive. They vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter. The contents are usually a grey, cheesy material, which is readily expressed when the cyst is squeezed. They are aused by a blockage within an oil gland. The lesions can be surgically excised under local anaesthetic, curetted and sutured.

Souamons Cell Carcinoma (Cancer)

In this condition the third eyelid is most often affected (a condition commonly referred to as ‘cancer eye’). The nose and lips are also common sites, as are the prepuce and penis of the male horse and the vulva of the mare. The lesion is usually a single, discrete, irregular-sized hairless mass protruding above the normal body skin level. It is composed of granulating tissue with ulcerative areas. The best therapy is surgical excision and cobalt radiation treatment. If the lesion is small the outcome is good.

Stable-Fly Bites

Stable-fly bites are raised swellings, 1 centimetre in diameter, with a scab in the centre They are found all over thebody but mainly on the lower body and legs. The bitescause intense itching; the horse will stamp, cow kick (withthe hindlegs), ‘shiver’ and switch the tail violently.
Reduce fly infestation by regularly picking up manurearound the stables and spraying 5 per cent DDT on stablewalls. Use 2 per cent DDT on the horse. The bites causeintense irritation and can be relieved with calamine lotion,or antihistamine/analgesic creams.
Summer sores (Cutaneous habronemiasis, swamp cancer) Summer sores are rapidly granulating masses which bleedvery easily when knocked or brushed. They are commonly found on the legs and lower thorax and abdomen, the eye, the penis (in the male), the vulva (in the female). They are caused by infection of wounds with larval forms ofhabronema (a worm) by infected flies.
On nictitating membranes and the penis it is best to re-move the growths surgically. Growths on the body and legsgenerally respond to treatment with 80 per cent Neguvonfluid as a 50 per cent mixture with DMSO.

Sunburn (Solar Dermatitis)

This usually occurs on white or unpigmented skin areas of the body, particularly along the backline and on the muzzle. It looks like an acute dermatitis. The affected skin becomes swollen, crusty, and sensitive to the touch. Sometimes serum may leak from the area.
Keep the horse out of the sun, preferably in a darkened stable, and treat the affected area with an antibiotic steroid cream. Human ‘block out’ agents can be used, or zinc cream. Preferably keep the horse out of the sun.
Urticaria (Blue-nose, nettle rash, hives, feed allergy) Urticaria usually affects the nose, eyelids, chest, prepuce,vulva, the abdomen and the thoracic wall. Wheals orblotches, appear suddenly on the skin. They are usually not sensitive to touch and disappear rapidly without treatment.
The usual cause is an allergy to insect stings, to spoiled feed, to flowers of spring grasses, or to foreign proteinssuch as are found in injections of serum or vaccine. Thehorse can be treated with intravenous antihistamines. Local areas can be dabbed with ammonia solution to relieve the swelling. Extreme allergic reactions can cause swelling within the windpipe, requiring emergency treatment of antihistamines to prevent asphyxiation.

Viral Papular Dermatitis

This virus causes swellings up to 5 millimetres in diameter which can occur anywhere on the body. (The swellings donot develop into pustules or fluid-filled bubbles.) A scab forms about seven days later and drops off, leaving a bare,hairless area. There is no itchiness. The disease invariably runs for three weeks and treatment is a waste of time.


Warts are frequently seen in foals and young horses underthe age of three years. They are generally located on thenose, the upper and lower lips and on the side of the face. Severe infections may extend back on to the jowl and upto the eyes. Isolated warts are sometimes found on thelower front legs. Usually they disappear spontaneously after three to six months. A mixture of salicylic acid 25 percent plus podophylline 20 per cent cream, or crude castor oil can be used on large clusters to hasten their disappearance. Warts are caused by a harmless virus.

Sleeping Sickness (Encephalomyelitis)

Sleeping sickness is caused by a virus which attacks the brain. The horse is usually depressed and feverish. It may become very excited, then lapse into a coma, followed by death. It occurs in the Americas. There is no treatment.

Snake Bite

A horse bitten by a venomous snake usually develops serious symptoms, largely because the horse has a relatively thin skin and the snake has good purchasing power, leading to the injection of large quantities of venom. Horses are usually bitten on the nose or the head area, less frequently on the legs or chest.
Nose and head bites are very serious because of the tremendous swelling that rapidly follows a bite. Later a blood-stained, frothy discharge may hang from each nostril. The eyes are swollen shut and the ears are swollen and lying flat. Breathing is difficult. Soon there is extreme depression and helplessness. The mortality rate is about 30 percent, depending on the toxicity of the venom, the size of the snake, and the effectiveness of its bite.
The treatment of snake bite involves antivenin (very expensive) fluid therapy and antibiotic therapy. If the horse is bitten onthe leg a firm bandage can be applied and a polyvalent anti-venin can be used.

Speedy Cut

Speedy cut is a self-inflicted injury to the inner surface of the lower part of the knee joint. It is caused by a blow from the inner point of the shoe on the other front hoof. It can occur when the horse is tired. over-raced, or has an unbalanced action. It can also occur under heavy going with the wrong leg leading. Sometimes a change in gait on broken ground is liable to cause this injury. Faulty conformation may be a permanent cause.
A shoe with longitudinal corks is sometimes used with success. These corks are 7 centimeters long, 3 millimeters wide and 6 millimeters deep and are set inside the nailholes on the branches, beginning at the first nail hole.


This name is given to the bony enlargements that arise between the large and small bones in the leg below the knee and hock. They form as a result of ossification (cal-cium build-up) in the ligament. This build-up of bone tissue to form the splint can also occur if the splint bone is fractured (for example, when the horse is kicked).
Splints usually develop on the inside of the foreleg andthe outside of the hindleg. They vary in size from that ofa split pea to that of a hen’s egg, and their significance is largely dependent on their position and size, and the age of the animal. Splints most frequently develop in horses under five years of age.
The cause of the splint is often abnormal conformation, where the cannons are offset from the center of the knee,or stress on the good leg from prolonged lameness. This puts more weight on the splint bone, causing movement between the small splint bone and the cannon bone. It is this movement that sets up an inflammation and subsequent calcification. Sometimes splints may be caused bya knock to the leg from the other leg, or more frequently they are the result of too much stress on a young horse’s leg. Usually the horse walks sound but trots lame. Recent cases are painful on pressure.
When searching for a splint, lift the leg and flex the knee,then rub your thumb along the groove between the large and small bones from the knee to the button at the end ofthe small bone. The principle of treatment of splints is to try to get the inflammatory process to settle down and a permanent weld formed between the small and large bones. To this end the horse should be immediately rested and confined. A cold pack should be put on the area to keep the inflammation down. Provided the splint does not involve the knee, or interfere with the free action of the tendons running down the back of the cannon bone, it will not affect the usefulness of the horse. It is frequently regarded as a blemish, however. If the splint is an old one and you wish to remove it for cosmetic purposes, a blister can be applied over the area, but the best results are after the use of radiation therapy. Splints can be removed surgically.


Straining can indicate constipation.
Strangles is an acute contagious disease of the horse. It appears as a ‘pussy’ nasal discharge, together with enlargement of the regional lymph nodes in the throat area. These may enlarge to the point of rupture. Occasionally the disease may spread via the bloodstream and cause abscess formation in other organs such as the lungs, kidneys, liver and intestines. The horse usually has a fever of 40-41°C increased respiratory rate, depression and loss of appetite.It begins with a mucoid discharge, followed quickly by swelling of the lymph nodes (glands). Once these burst andhave discharged their creamy yellow pus, the horse’s temperature drops to normal.
During an outbreak, sound sanitary measures are im-portant to prevent spread of the disease. Affected animals should be isolated. Take their temperatures twice daily. All animals showing fevers should be isolated. Rest is essential,and affected horses should be protected from cold, draughts and inclement weather. Stables should be cleaned, and the contaminated bedding burned. The organism is a bacteria and is easily destroyed by boiling for ten minutes. Common disinfectants readily destroy the organism.
Horses respond well to antibiotics such as penicillin, streptomycin or tetracyclines. Treatment should be con-tinued until the temperature reaches normal. A vaccine is available to prevent this disease, although its efficiency is in doubt.


This term can apply to any group of wasted muscles. Its popular usage applies to the muscles over the shoulder blade. In most cases the wastage of these muscles is due toa direct blow to the point of the shoulder which damages the nerve supplying the muscles. The wasting of the muscles makes the shoulder joint appear more prominent. Sometimes there is lameness and there may be a bowing of the knee of the limb on the affected side.
There is no known treatment of any value but heat ap-plications may help. Final judgement should be reserved for six months.
This can be due to infestations of pinworms, lice, Queensland itch, mange, or to a dirtyudder or dirty sheath.

Teeth problems

Because the grinding or molar teeth at the back of the horse’s mouth do not exactly oppose, they develop sharp edges which must be filed down. Horses’ teeth should be checked twice yearly and filed (floated) if necessary. Horsesunder six years of age may have caps to be removed from the tips of the teeth.

Tendons, Spralned or Ruptured

Spraining of tendons is a well-known hazard. A sprained tendon may be the result of a slip or mis-step but more commonly it occurs at the end of an exhausting event when the muscles begin to tire. At this time propulsion is main-tained through the check ligaments and tendons rather than through the muscles and tendons. The inelastic tendons are unable to cope with the excessive stretching andmany of the fibres are torn. When the sprain or rupture first begins, the horse should stop work immediately, anti-inflammatory injections should be given, and the local area cold-hosed to reduce the swelling. A poultice should beapplied to the area each day and left on for twenty-fourhours. This procedure should continue for seven days after the swelling and/or heat has left the leg. If the tendon hasbeen badly ruptured the leg should be plaster cast and as lightly raised heel shoe put on the leg. For the valuable animal, surgical correction is also available.
Because of the nature of the healing process, the horse will need six months’ rest. Even after this rest a damaged tendon or ligament is likely to break down again under severe stress.


Most warm-blooded animals are susceptible to tetanus, but the horse is the most sensitive. The cost of vaccination for tetanus is very little, and there is no excuse for not giving the animal protection. All horses should be vaccinated, as the disease is usually fatal. The tetanus germ lives in most organic matter, such as manure and damp conditions around stables.
It enters the horse’s body via a deep penetrating wound.The first signs are a rigidity of the forelegs and a slight tremor or tucking up of the abdominal muscles. The ears are pricked and the third eyelid may begin to protrude. As time progresses, these symptoms become much more dramatic and the horse becomes very sensitive to noise. Treatment of tetanus cases is invariably a failure.
If the horse gets a deep penetrating wound, antitoxin and antitoxoid should be given immediately. Booster shotsof toxoid should be given a month later and then each fiveyears.


An abnormal desire for water is seen in fever, sugar diabetes, water diabetes, kidney disease, and diarrhea. Saltyfood and very hot weather can also increase the horse’s thirst. A normal horse may drink up to 45 litres of water a day, a lactating mare much more.


Thrush is a disease affecting the cleft of the frog. It is seenin horses stabled in dirty conditions or horses paddocked in unclean, damp conditions. It is generally considered to be an indication of neglect and poor stable management. Bacteria and germs in the cleft of the frog thrive in suchconditions. The sign of thrush is a blackish discharge which gives off a typically offensive smell. The site can become quite raw and painful and the horse may go lame. Superficial thrush can be cleared up by transferring a horseto a dry area. picking its feet out twice a day and cleaning them thoroughly with a brush and water, finally applying a 5 per cent formalin solution. This solution must not get on to the skin. If the frog has been eaten away and the horse is very lame, antibiotic therapy may also be necessary.

Urine Disorders

As with most herbivorous animals, very little goes wrong with the urinary system in the horse. The color of theurine is usually a clear light yellow; it can be very cloudy at times but this is generally of no significance. Urine of port-wine colour may indicate tying-up (azoturia). It may also indicate cystitis (inflammation of the bladder). Incontinence in the horse is usually a sign of aging, and can be treated with hormones. The retention of urine is said to occur with colic and tetanus. This can be relieved with a catheter.
Sometimes a horse may refuse to urinate in strange surroundings—for example, new stables, at a show, on a float trip. Take the horse to a grassed area and let it eat andrelax, or put it in a stable with plenty of straw bedding.`Flooding the box’ is related to water diabetes and may becaused by high grain diets. Horses will usually get over the condition, which causes no harm.

Vaginal Disorders

Abnormal discharges from the vagina include pus, which indicates infection of the bladder or more commonly the uterus (metritis). Any discharge from the vulva of the mareis serious. It is important to get a vet to examine her as soonas possible. The vet will take cultures of the organism to determine which drugs to use. Antibiotics may be given byinjection or in a uterine douche. Mares exhibiting such discharges are invariably infertile, at least until it is cleared. Bloody discharges may indicate a cystitis or more commonly abortion. Pustules affecting the lips of the vagina indicate skin disease such as equine coital exanthema


Crib-biting, wind-sucking, weaving, pawing, biting, kickingstable walls, wood-chewing, and so on are all vices resulting from boredom. Many horses are locked up in a small stable, hand-fed twice daily, and given nothing else to do all day. They develop vices as a way of passing the time. The trouble is that horses are great mimics and once one starts wood-chewing, for example, a stable full of wood-chewers (`termites’) soon results. Vices such as these are rarely seen in range horses.


Vitamin supplementation for paddocked horses is rarely necessary. Horses in heavy work (racing, polo or endurance riding) may benefit from special equine vitamin preparations, as may young growing stock, but the benefit is doubtful as the horse does produce ample of its own vitamins provided it is given good fresh food. Occasionally,horses in heavy work benefit from vitamin B 12 and vitamin B complex supplements. These should always be given with folic acid. Other vitamin supplements include vitamin E forthe heart and skeletal muscle.


This is a vice resulting from boredom. The horse stands atits stable door, head over the door, and rocks from one front foot to the other, wearing itself out and often making holes in the floor.
Ideally the weaver should be put out in a paddock and fed only once a day, thus forcing it to forage for food for most of the day. If this is impossible, a bar or second door should be put on the stable so the horse cannot get its head out through the doorway. I have seen some trainers successfully dangle two bricks in the open space above the door to stop the horse weaving.


Windgall (a synovial distension) is fluid distension arounda joint which usually indicates that the joint has been understress. It is commonly found on both the inside and outside of the fetlock joints between the tendons at the back of the leg and the cannon bone. It is simply a protective mechanism for an overworked joint. It is pointless draining the windgall and injecting anti-inflammatory agents as the synovial membrane has been permanently stretched and will just fill up again. Windgalls do no harm to the horse and should be left alone.


A wind-sucker is a horse that can crib in the air without support. As the wind-sucker does not use its teeth for support, the habit does not produce abnormal wear on the teeth and is only detectable when the horse is caught in the act. The head is bent towards the breast, thelips move in a peculiar manner, the head and neck are jerked upwards and air is swallowed, the act being accompanied by a grunt similar to that heard in crib-biting. Like crib-biting, wind-sucking is a definite unsoundness ina horse and can predispose to other problems—particularly colic. There is no permanent cure for such a horse, although good results can be obtained with neck straps.
The term ‘wind-sucking’ also refers to movement of air into a mare’s vagina (carrying with it fecal debris and consequent infection) as a result of poor conformation of the mare’s anus/vulva region.


This is a condition characteristically seen in well-developed male horses with long crested necks at yearling to two year old. It presents as a weakness in the hindlegs (a slight paralysis). Riders will complain that they feel unsafe. This condition is associated with a lesion in the neck of the horse which interferes with the nervous control of the back legs.
There are several degrees of the syndrome. In the milder form the horse should not be ridden but may lead a per-fectly normal life in the paddock. In severe forms the horse may gradually deteriorate to the point where it loses the use of its back legs and must be destroyed. There is no cure for this condition.

Wolf Teeth

The wolf teeth are four redundant (vestigial) teeth which are frequently present in the horse, one in front of each of the first molar teeth in the upper and lower jaw. The two in the lower jaw rarely erupt. A wolf tooth varies in shape—usually it is tubular, but occasionally one is seen with a crown that resembles in shape a small molar. Usually the wolf teeth erupt during the first six months and may be shed about the same time as the milk teeth behind them. They may remain indefinitely. Some people claim that they interfere with the bit in the mouth and consequently horse dentists tend to remove them.


The chief danger for all wounds, apart from the mechanical damage, is the risk of infection and further damage—especially to joint capsules, sensitive portions of the foot. tendons, blood vessels and nerves. Lack of drainage may encourage the spread of infection. Healing of the superficial part of the wound and trapping infection under-neath, may lead to abscess formation. Undetected foreign bodies such as pieces of wood or wire may be left in a wound and cause sinus tracks. Such wounds will not heal until the foreign body is removed. Conditions interfering with the healing of wounds include:
Interference with circulation in the vicinity of the wound.This can be caused by swelling, improper bandaging, laceration and cutting of blood vessels, prolonged infection and granulation tissue.
Invasive infection drainage should always be established when infection is present. Failure to use sterile techniqueswhen dressing the wounds may be the cause of infection.
Devitalised tissue, or any other dying tissues, particularly those that have been pulled away from their circulation, should be removed. A triangular skin flap with the apex of the flappointed upwards or towards the incoming blood supply will usually lose the apical portion of the triangle as a result of loss of blood supply.
Inadequate drainage or collection of blood and discharges in the wound. Inadequate drainage interferes with circulation, and forms an ideal medium for growth ofbacteria.
Retained foreign bodies Any foreign body left in the wound will interfere with healing and cause a sinus track.
Continuous irritation of the wound This is usually dueto lack of restaint, allowing a horse to abuse the woundarea. Neck cradles and Elizabethan collars are often helpful in preventing further irritation.
An Elizabethan collar made from wooden sticks to prevent the horse from biting at wounds or bandages.
Wound medications are often more detrimental than helpful in the healing of a wound. Irritant antiseptics and drugs should be avoided inall cases. Drugs such as copper sulphate and antimony trichloride are very irritant to new cell growth. Although these products will destroy superficial granulation tissue,they will also destroy immature, young, growing skin cells. Any granulation tissue (proud flesh) present should be surgically removed by scalpel or cautery and the wound kept under a pressure bandage with a corticosteroid and antibiotic ointment until it is healed. Powdered blue-stone (copper sulphate) in vaseline, pasted on, will reduce granulation tissue over 24 hours.
Filling in a leg three days after wire cuts. Any further swelling would require antibiotic treatment.
Dirty bandages should be changed frequently to avoid irritation. Wet bandages containing wound discharges will delay healing. In most cases a bandage should not be allowed to stay in place for longer than three days. Contamination should always be avoided when applying a dressing.
Poor nutrition will delay healing of a Pressure bandages replaced daily will help prevent proudflesh developing on wounds of the limbs. wound. Infestation with parasites, bad teeth, and inad-equate feeding may contribute to delays in wound healing.
Treatment of lacerated and incised wounds Mistreatment of wounds will result in granulation (proudflesh), scarring, blemishing and sometimes unsoundness.
Tetanus vaccination is inexpensive and painless. Unprotected, a horse may get tetanus, a most excruciating and fatal disease.
Horses — First Aid Expanded
Wounds below the carpus (knee) and the tarsus (hock) are especially sensitive and will develop proud flesh unless careful treatment is given to prevent these complications.Tetanus anti-toxin should always be administered if the horse is not on a tetanus program.

All wounds should be cleaned carefully and tissues that have obviously lost their blood supply should be removed.Horse tissue tends to waterlog when cleansed with ordinary water, so normal saline solution should be used—that is, 1 teaspoonful of salt to 600 milliliters of water. Clean thewound using sterile gauzes or sponges.

Wounds below the knee and the hock joint that are so small that bandaging is not required should be treated daily with agents which tend to retard proud flesh devel-opment, such as 2 per cent picric acid, 2 per cent tannicacid, triple dye preparations or Socatyl paste.

Larger wounds on the limbs should be cleansed as described above and covered with Socatyl or with anantibiotic/cortisone combination cream and then ban-daged firmly. The bandage should be changed daily until the seepage and discharge is minimal. Then decrease the frequency of bandage changing. Keep the wound bandaged until skin has covered the area. Keep the horse inactive until the wound has healed.

Wounds on the upper limbs and body, if not stitched, should be irrigated twice daily until pink granulation tissue has filled the hole. Then apply triple dye or commercial topical sprays.

Yellow Eggs

In autumn the bot-fly lays its yellow eggs, frequently on the horse’s legs. If not removed, by shaving the hair or by wiping the area with kerosene, the eggs hatch, and the larval stages (bots) eventually find their way to the horse’s stomach.