Horse and Rider | 2007
An abscess is fluid that is trapped underneath the sole. This fluid arrives
there from several sources. Horses have a colony of bacteria that roam their
body and locate themselves in trauma sites. A byproduct of their existence is
gas and fluids. Cells are 90% water and once they die or rupture from injury
the fluid is released and the bacteria begin the process of removing the
The easiest way to explain the process from this point is to take a piece of
glass and place a drop of water on the glass. It forms a nice drop. Now take
an additional piece of glass and place it on top of the first. You will see the
drop spread dramatically. This hydraulic action is very powerful and can
pull away the union between the sensitive laminae and insensitive sole. The
experience would be much like you having a blood blister under your
thumbnail and then trying to bear all your weight on that finger. It would be
In your horse the sole and ground is the first piece of glass. The fluid is the
water released from damaged cells and from the bacteria that have localized
in a trauma site (bruising, sole puncture or abnormal weight bearing. The
second piece of glass is the bone column.
When your horse steps down on that foot the fluid is spread and that
hydraulic action tears away at the connection between the sensitive and
insensitive sole, causing the pain your horse is experiencing. The more
tearing that occurs the more fluid that is produced, thereby causing more
tearing that…you get the picture.
Some abscesses will discharge through the bottom of the foot, frog or
buttress and others will travel up the union of the sensitive laminae and the
hoof wall and discharge at the coronary band.
An abscess that discharges at the coronary band is called 'gravel'. In the late
1800's they began to put chipped rock on roadways. Many horses abscessed
from the trauma of sharp rocks. Soles were left extra thick to protect the
horse so the abscess material would travel up the union between the hoof
wall and the sensitive laminae and discharge at the coronary band. At that
time it was thought that a piece of rock, 'gravel', migrated up the wall and
came out at the coronary band. It has since been learned that, in a gravel,
there is in fact no foreign object that migrates up the wall, just abscess
You said that your "…horse is standing on soles of feet…". The horse's sole
is not designed to bear weight. When a horse stands on his sole the sensitive
lamanie (blood vessels, nerves, etc.) is trapped between the bone column and
the ground. During weight bearing capillaries are compressed and they will
rupture. Cells will die. The dead cells release fluid, bacteria accumulate,
creating the scenario for an abscess.
It is imperative that your horse gets shoes and probably pads. The shoes are
necessary to elevate the sole off the ground and prevent the pinching of
laminae between the bone and ground. The pad will reduce the amount of
pressure placed on the sole from rocks or uneven ground.
The shoe should be concaved so that the sole is not touching the shoe, just
the hoof wall. If your farrier says that there is not enough hoof wall to nail a
shoe to then change farriers. With today's acrylics, polyurethanes and
variety of shoes and nails available a competent farrier can hang a shoe on
just about any foot.