Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stone Bruises: Annie's Accident

I have a theory about horses. It's called The Equine Universal Bi-factor Dissonance Theory, and it states that, at any given time, the health of your horse is inversely proportional to that horse's current level of training/broke-ness. In other words, if a horse ain't lame, it's sassy, and if it ain't sassy, it's lame.

Sometimes they're lame and sassy!

I bring this up because just when Annie and I had been riding out alone fairly often, trying some new things, getting comfortable with the idea of going on a "real" trail ride, she got a stone bruise. Of course she did.

As I've said before, a horse will eventually take advantage of any opportunity to hurt itself-- which is why Annie's accident is actually my fault for allowing her to be around junk. I board on my family's farm, a gorgeous place on a dead end road, with 12 acres of pasture, with a barn and streams, right next to a huge tree plantation the owners allow anyone to ride on. It's fantastic...and totally free. Yeah, I can feel your jealousy burning into my brain across the internet. However, there's one little problem; my father is nearly a hoarder, and a few pieces of his junk have wound up in my horse areas. Nothing super dangerous, just some covered machinery, but still...

Recently, Annie decided to squeeze into a two-foot gap between a parked tractor/compressor and the wooden fence. (No, I don't know why, except that my horse has the survival instincts of a lemming.) Once there, she couldn't or wouldn't back out, found out 1,200 pound car-length critters like her can't turn around in two feet of space, panicked, and bulldozed through the fence. In the process, she got totally scraped up and jammed her hoof onto a nasty metal bit.

Of course this was the morning that my car chose to break down. As a result, the friend I had arranged to go riding with that morning found Annie first, still hung up, scratched to hell. This friend, Squidbunny, heroically freed Annie and called me.

The very least I can do to thank her is to plug her awesome, gorgeous western-steampunk webcomic again. Read it here!

Annie punctured the toe of her sole, not terribly deeply, but enough to cause bleeding. I knew immediately that she would probably get a stone bruise, and that is indeed what happened. I just thank God she didn't hit any major structures. You can see where it happened here, after my farrier got through trimming the hoof and further opening the wound site:

A stone bruise is caused when there's blunt-force trauma to a horse's sole, often from stepping heavily on a sharp rock. Usually there isn't even a puncture. Stone bruises cause lameness for days or even weeks. Worse, they are notorious for becoming abscessed. An abscess is a pocket of pus underneath the skin (or sole), and they'll make a horse even more lame until they burst, drain and heal. Unfortunately, when this happens inside a horse's hoof, it's very hard for the abscess to burst because it's surrounded by such dense, tough material. Often, they burst through the coronet band, heel bulbs or frog. Some horses (like thin-soled TBs) are so prone to these that by the time one heals, another has developed. Many horses develop abscesses if they're usually shod, then are suddenly switched to going barefoot.

The only treatment for stone bruises (and abscesses) is daily soaking, usually in Epsom salts and warm water. Soaking a horse's hoof is usually like trying to put a cranky toddler in a formal outfit; you may get it in there, but it's not going to stay in there for long. Luckily, Annie is as angelic about this as she is for nearly everything else, and I don't even have to stand next to her to keep her leg still.

Soaking the hoof draws out the pus and reduces pain and inflammation. The more you soak, the sooner an abscess will burst and drain. In Annie's case, the puncture already allows any pus to drain, but the soaking removes it faster, reducing the risk of a more serious infection to her coffin bone.

Often, it's a good idea to wrap, boot or otherwise protect a horse's hoof after a stone bruise. Doing so can prevent further injury by protecting the bruised sole from contact with rocks. In Annie's case, it's more about preventing dirt and bacteria from being packed into the wound. I was overjoyed to be able to use one of the expensive boots I had purchased for just this sort of occasion. Of course Annie got it off in 20 minutes. Thank God for vet wrap, the duct tape of the horse world. I also used Ichthammol around the puncture. It's a salve that actually draws infection out of a wound-- good stuff.

That's all for now folks-- tune in next time for daily reports on the Midwest Horse Fair! I just can't wait to tell you all about the seminars with Asia Voight, the animal psychic who charges $150 for half-hour telephone consultations. I also hope to be able to go to some local horse auctions.


  1. There is going to be a horse auction in Janesville on May 5th at Francis Farm, or Francis Pony Farm.
    There is said to be a herd dispersal auction on Jefferson at the fairgrounds, THIS saturday..
    So are you going to the Midwest horse fair?

  2. Hi Carol: thanks for the heads up on the sales! Yes, I will definitely be going to MWHF all three days, reporting on the best and worst there and drooling over all of the gorgeous horses I can't have.