by: Les Sellnow
Few occurrences are more disturbing to a horse owner than lameness. A lame horse is one that is idle in a stall or paddock instead of being enjoyed in the show ring or on the trail. Sometimes lameness can be brought on by a complex and serious cascade of events such as with laminitis, but at other times the lameness is the result of something that seems minor--like a stone bruise.
This rather innocuous injury can have its own complexity and, if left untreated, can result in a horse's demise.
The bruise referred to here affects the sole of the horse's foot. A bruise can result from a variety of factors--ranging from a step on a stone causing an external bruise to landing with such concussive force when going over a jump or racing across a hard surface that the bones of the inner foot bruise the inside of the sole.
Some bruises come and go with little notice. Fitting into that category, says Doug Butler, PhD, Certified Journeyman Farrier, Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, of LaPorte, Colo., are bruises that can occur from the buildup of snow in the bottom of the foot during the winter months. Butler is widely known as a lecturer on hoof care and shoe making and fitting, as well as the author of the classic book on farrier science Principles of Horseshoeing I and II.
The first detection of a mild bruise from balled up snow, says Butler, often comes when the horse's feet are trimmed in the spring and the farrier notices a reddish spot or area where the bruise occurred. In such cases, the bruise would have caused tiny blood vessels to rupture, but would not have created pain to the point that the horse was lame.
On the other side of the spectrum are bruises so severe that they not only produce lameness, but also result in an abscess that can compromise the health of the entire foot if left untreated.