The Franken-abscess returns


Six weeks ago, Freedom blew an abscess out the heel bulb on his right front. Last Thursday, it came back with a vengeance.

I had been thrilled that the horses and the barn came through Hurricane Sandy in good shape and when I rode him on Wednesday he felt great.

On Thursday morning, the woman who fed the barn called me and told me that Freedom could barely walk.  When I got to the barn there was heat, swelling, a strong digital pulse and a horse that was truly three-legged lame.

He was in such distress that my first thought was tendon injury. I feared that he slipped in the mud left behind by Sandy; the horses were still acting a little spooked after the wind.

However, as the day progressed and he looked worse (despite cold hosing, wrapping and a little bute) and it looked more and more like that abscess had returned. Sure enough, when my vet stopped by later afternoon, that was her assessment, too. This has been a first for me: an abscess that required three vet visits!

After some soaking, the abscess drained again and Freedom is looking a lot more comfortable.

The experience has given me a lot to think about. I have a few theories about why the abscess came back:

  • It was a very big abscess and it didn’t drain entirely the first time. My vet says that sometimes, this just happens. If it doesn’t clear up well this time, we’ll have to get films of the foot, but I’m hoping we can just get this to clear.
  • The Cavallo boot aggravated the spot on his heel bulb and caused a secondary problem. I’ve come to the conclusion that he won’t be able to wear the Cavallos until this issue is truly behind us.
  • After the first abscess, his heel grew unevenly. If there was ever any doubt that increased blood flow encourages hoof growth, this should dispel it! The outside of his heel grew significantly faster than the inside. This left him unbalanced and also put more pressure right at the coronary band. Exacerbating the issue was the fact that we are using a fill in trimmer while my own farrier is on medical leave (she was in a terrible accident this summer). While the new trimmer does a nice job, her 6-week schedule was too long for Freedom during this period of uneven growth.
  • Our hay during this period was very rich second cutting. Sometimes horses experience some foot soreness with rich hay.

My plan moving forward is to first, let him heal. And second, find a better solution to protecting his feet while he can’t wear his boots. I have a tentative appointment next week to have him evaluated by a farrier who does a lot of therapeutic shoeing and who has a real expertise in glue on shoes. This might allow us to catch the last few hunts of the season and leave his feet free of nail holes when I pull the shoes for the winter.

Has anyone else had one of these abscesses from hell? How did you resolve it? And how long did it take?

4 thoughts on “The Franken-abscess returns

  1. I think it is #1 because of #3. I had a horse that had an ongoing abscess for years. Until it finally resolved itself, that hoof grew 2x the rate of the other hooves. I had to have the farrier come out in between trims to trim that foot only. This went on for 3 years–with 2 operations. It was the worst abscess–ever.

    When the abscess was officially over, the foot grew at a normal rate.

    By the way, when the second operation didn’t work, either, I just gave up. I decided to keep the drainage hole open. After each ride, I opened up the hole a little with the knife, and I stuffed the hole with a betadine soaked cotton ball. I did this with the vet and farrier’s blessing. They gave up, too.

    To my surprise, in about 6 months, the hole closed up from the inside and that foot was fine for the rest of his life.

  2. Wow. That is the abscess from hell! I don’t know why I didn’t figure out that the uneven growth was going to become a problem. I do look at his feet every day! When the vet pointed it out that was a big “duh” moment. I’m sure that it made him sore and I am feeling lucky that the imbalance in his hoof didn’t cause him to take a bad step and injure something else.

  3. Hi
    We have a mammoth donkey who abscessed each summer it was Hell for sure. We changed the diet to orchard hay tested at 7% low sugar. Stopped all supplements other than salt. This stopped the abscesses along with shoeing the front hooves that kept abscessing in the front quarter.

    Send me a note a Melody@donkeywhisperer.com I am happy to share what we did to make it thru the horrific process. Iodine on a cotton ball is imperative until the hoof grows out takes a good 1 year to grow the hole completly out. I have 1 horse, 1 mini donkey, 1 mammoth donkey all are living in the same environment and feed. My mammoth is the only one to have the abscess problems. This is how I stopped the maddness diet and shoes.

  4. Thank you for your offer! Knock on wood, I think the abscesses are now under control. I’ve been meaning to write an update and will do so soon. Freedom now has front shoes . . . at least until the area where he abscessed grows out. He was still quite sore when I brought him to the special farrier for an evaluation but once he got shoes he had happy feet!

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