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Ailments 2



Every time you are with your horse you should take a good look at him to check that he looks exactly as usual.

Does he look as bright as usual?
Does he stand comfortably on all four feet? (Resting one hind leg is normal).
Do his legs look their usual shape?
Does he walk and trot evenly?
Does his eye look bright?
Does he hold his head and neck in a natural position? Does he show any signs of a cold?
Has he any wounds or marks?
Does he show his usual appreciation of his tit-bit?

This check only takes a few minutes but it may mean that you find trouble in time to avoid serious consequences.


You should be familiar with the symptoms and simple treatment of the following - colds, colic, founder, girth galls, mud fever, lameness, poisoned foot, sore backs, sore mouths, strangles and wounds.

(a) COLDS.

Horses are quite subject to colds and coughs. Symptoms of a sore throat are reluctance to swallow especially water - the head and neck held stiffly. There may be a cough. Running nose like the human cold in the head is an obvious symptom. All colds are infectious so if possible, keep the sick one away from the other horses and do not use the same bridle or feed things. A horse with no outward signs of a cold will often cough as he starts to work. After a trot or two he no longer coughs. It will do this horse no harm to work but if he coughs continuously he should not work, as continued effort could permanently damage his wind.
Keep the horse with a cold as warm as circumstances permit, but he is really better not shut up if he is normally in the paddock. 'Vicks' up his nose can help and an inhalation twice a day is excellent. If he will eat a small feed sprinkled with Eucalyptus and then damped, he will inhale well or put a litre or two of bran in a small bag, treat it in a similar way and hang it on his head so that he breathes through it or have the mixture in a bucket and hold it under his nose so that he breathes it in. Do not work the horse until he is fully recovered.


(b) COLIC.

When any condition occurs which prevents the normal passage of food through the digestive system it will cause pain to the horse. He will be restless, possibly getting up and down, or rolling, - kicking at his stomach and looking round at his flanks. He is not interested in food or drink. The horse owner should have in his medicine chest a colic cure prescribed by his Vet. At the first sign of colic this should be administered. Then the horse must be kept under observation. Let him lie down if he wishes but do not let him roll violently. Watch that he does not become cast against a wall or in some place where he cannot get up. Many people say he should be kept on his feet and walked about, but this theory does not seem to agree with nature's dictates. With a normal mild colic he will probably recover in a matter of four or five hours. If he is still sick, then it is time to call a Vet. There is a very serious case when the intestine is twisted and this will mean death within twelve hours or so. This is rare and if the horse is desperately violent, the Vet should be summoned at once.
Possible causes of colic are sudden change of diet, work too soon after feeding. Gross over-eating of grain may occur if the horse gets at the supply of feed. Accumulation of sand in the intestine can be caused through grubbing for roots of grass, etc.
Some horses are subject to periodic attacks of colic. The Vet should be consulted and the mixture of feed and work carefully checked to look for any circumstances common to each attack.
It is always wise to refrain from giving a horse any extra feed on the morning when he has more work to do than usual. Feed him an hour after the work is finished.



This is inflammation of the membrane between the horny wall of the hoof and the pedal bone and sensitive inner parts of the hoof. Inflammation always causes swelling, but here there is no place to swell because of the hard hoof. The result is great pressure on all the nerves and so, great pain. It is a similar effect to a splinter under the human nail.
The most usual cause of founder is the horse or pony getting too fat. He has too much nourishing food and is not having enough exercise to use up the extra energy produced. This upsets the normal functions of the body. It is not clearly known just why this effects the feet but that is undoubtedly what happens.
The membrane, which is affected, is the support keeping the pedal bone in position, so it is very serious when this ceases to function correctly. The whole shape of the foot is distorted and can never be brought back to its proper state. The sole, instead of being arched upwards, drops to be flat or even arched downwards. Even when inflammation and pain have been reduced, the foot is always sensitive because of the nearness to the ground. The shock absorbing functions of the foot is greatly impaired by the alteration of its shape.

Obviously the way to prevent the pony from foundering is to watch his condition closely and cut down with his ration drastically before he is too fat. Feel his crest and if this is getting harder than usual, he is dangerously fat. When the grass in his paddock is good he should be shut up, given a little meadow hay and only allowed out to graze for one-hour morning and night. It is quite useless to shut him up for 12 hours and then let him out for 12 hours, as he will then have ample time to eat his fill. He should have as much exercise as can be managed, as this increases the blood circulation and will help to keep his feet healthy.
If, in spite of your care, the pony shows signs of foundering by appearing sore in his feet, be very strict about his diet, exercise him on a lead on soft ground and stand him in water or a wet muddy patch for an hour morning and night. Consult your Vet and carry out whatever treatment he prescribes. Next year, start earlier with your preventive measures and be even stricter. Once a pony is foundered, even a little he is very subject to its recurrence and once his feet have been affected in this way, they can never be quite back to al. The more severe the attack the more harmful and lasting the results.
Another cause of founder is a big feed of oats or any rich food. If it is known that a horse has got to feed like this, shut him up and do not left him drink. Get the Vet's advice for treatment.
To develop laminitis is a very sad thing to happen to a horse, but it need not happen if only the owner thinks and acts soon enough and firmly enough. It is much kinder to have a hungry horse than one that is foundered.



As always, prevention is far easier and better than any cure. If a horse has been out of work, begin work very gradually,  a quarter of an hour for the first few days, gradually increasing the time and using a soft nylon string girth. Do not wrap anything round the girth or use a surcingle over it as either would prevent the strings from moving and opening up. This action is what appears to save the chafing effect. At all times take special care of the girth, whatever its material. It must be kept soft and clean to ensure the horse's comfort and lessen the risk of galling.
If the pony has very thick long hair under the girth, this often gets matted up and causes trouble. It is not advisable to clip it close to the skin. Try to thin it out by using the clippers the way the hair lies, or even trim off the longer parts with the scissors.

Should the skin become rubbed or raw, cease work until it is completely healed, dress daily with a healing ointment. Next time take greater care and go more slowly. Wrapping sheepskin or wool round the girth is not recommended as this increases the pressure on the sore part and makes it more inclined to sweat and rub. For more information {Click Here}                 



If a horse is cut or rubbed under the pastern, this often allows infection to penetrate the skin and this produces a condition known as greasy heel. The area is cracked, often deeply, is very sore and becomes coated with a thick greasy matter. Every time the pastern is bent it opens the cracks and the resulting pain makes the horse lame on that leg. If the horse's legs are continually wet and muddy, the condition may occur without there being an initial wound. It is then known as mud fever and may spread up the legs to other parts of the body.

Wash thoroughly with warm water and soap using a piece of rough towelling. Rub the affected parts until the hard nodules formed by the grease all come away. This is painful to the horse and may make the part bleed slightly, but the cleansing and laying open to the air greatly helps healing. After drying, dust with a healing powder such as sulphanilamide. The following day rub a healing ointment well in all over the area and repeat this, unless the nodules re-appear, when another wash is required. If the cracks are deep, healing will be helped if the horse is kept reasonably still.

If there is no choice but to keep the horse in muddy conditions, catch him each day if possible, tie him up until his legs are dry and then scrub all the mud off with vigorous use of a dandy brush. A scrubbing action will have the best effect. Use the brush as firmly as the horse will put up with. If after cleaning, zinc ointment is rubbed well into the hair over the lower parts of the legs, the horse should not need such frequent attention. Twice a week should suffice to check him over. It may be necessary to wash his legs to get them clean after the zinc.  [TOP]



You notice that your horse is moving unevenly, so must be lame in one leg or another. To decide which is the lame leg, trot him out and concentrate on the front legs only. Do they move evenly or is one step shorter than the other? In the second case the lame leg will be the one which takes the short step. If the front legs are even, then study the back ones in the same way and again the one, which takes the short step, is the lame one.

If a horse continually points one front leg out in front as he stands, thus easing the weight off it, there is definitely trouble there, even if he does not limp when moving. On the other hand it is quite normal that he rests a hind leg.
Having located the lame or sore leg, look closely for any wound or swelling and feel firmly down the leg for any tenderness. Next clean out his hoof thoroughly to see that no stick or stone is lodged where it will press on the sole. Tap the sole all over to check if there is a tender spot, which will indicate a bruised sole.
If you have found the cause of lameness, then treat accordingly, but whatever the cause, remember that rest for at least 3 months is necessary for an effective cure of any trouble. Unfortunately many lameness's which come from diseases of the bones or joints are incurable, but your Vet will advise you if this is the case. 



An abscess forms on the membrane between the sole and the pedal bone. This may be caused by bruising from the horse stepping on a stone or from penetration of the sole by a nail or some sharp object. The pus that forms has no way of escape so there is pressure on sensitive parts causing great pain. The symptoms are lameness, getting steadily worse. The horse will rest the weight off the affected foot. The tender spot can usually be located by raising the foot and pressing on various parts of the sole. Professional help is necessary.
The farrier or vet will open the sole below the abscess to allow the pus to drain from the lowest point. As soon as this is done the pain is relieved and healing occurs rapidly. If the sole is not opened the poison will often work up between the wall and pedal bone and break out at the heel or coronet.
After the operation, it is advisable to pack the opening with some cotton wool soaked in carbolic or iodine. This dressing should be renewed daily for several days. The horse must be rested until he is going quite sound. Leather under the shoe will give protection to the tender part whilst new horn is growing. 



Sore backs, due usually to saddle injuries are a very common cause of horses being unfit to ride. These are avoidable by the exercise of some thought on the part of the rider, and the adoption of a system of routine checks on the fit of the saddle.
If the saddle fits the horse as described in
Saddlery (Section 3 ) and he wears a soft clean saddlecloth, he will never get a rubbed or raw place on his back. However, he may become tender and bruised from long work when he is not fit, or from the rider acting carelessly and dropping his weight onto the saddle, sitting crookedly or sitting too far back in the saddle. The horse will show this condition by shrinking down when the weight is put in the saddle or when the hand is pressed along his back when unsaddled. He needs first rest until the bruising clears up, and then a very soft saddlecloth such as a good sheepskin or soft folded blanket. This and careful handling of his back at all times.

Horses sometimes develop small hard lumps under the saddle. These have a soft centre with some pus forming. This is an infection, which can spread, so it is not advisable to use the harness from an infected horse on another. If these cists are not sore the horse can be used with plenty of padding under the saddle, but the trouble is that they often rub and so form a sore. A treatment often effective is to rub on firmly onto each spot daily a sulphanilamide ointment, but no quick cure can be expected.  [TOP]



The lips often rub raw at the corners where the bit rests. This, like saddle galls, can be avoided by starting work gradually, by greasing these spots before they get sore, by keeping the bit clean and by checking that there is no rough spot on the bit to cause trouble. If the lips do rub, the horse should not wear a bit until they are completely healed. A rubber or vulcanite bit may help such a mouth.   [TOP]



The symptoms at first are similar to a cold. The throat is very sore, he has a high temperature and does not like to eat or drink. There is often a heavy yellow discharge from the nose. Very soon his throat, (where the throat lash rests) will become sore and swollen and hard. After about a week, abscesses will show in this area. When the time is right, the Vet will open and drain these and prescribe treatment.
Keep him as comfortable and warm as possible and offer him small feeds of damp chaff and bran placed so that he does not need to lower his head to eat. This seems to be easier for his sore throat. An inhalation as for a cold will help to relieve him. More info on Strangles Click Here

If the disease runs its normal course, the horse will be fit to work after 3 or 4 weeks, but, of course, he must be Completely recovered and the abscesses be healed over.
Strangles is very infectious, so it is important that the sick animal is kept isolated and all the other horses that he has been with are watched carefully for symptoms developing. Ask the Vet if there is any preventative treatment you can give them, as there is now a very effective vaccine, which does not appear to cause any discomfort to the horse. 



If a wound is very extensive, with torn flesh hanging down, or if it is a deep puncture, a Vet should be called, but most wounds can be home nursed quite successfully. Bathe well with whatever antiseptic your Vet prescribes, dry with a clean soft cloth and dress with the dressing he prescribes. Do not bathe more than necessary but if the surface becomes messy, it should be cleaned again before the next dressing. Wounds heal better if exposed to the air, but if the flies are bad, it is better to give protection if a bandage can be kept in position. If the wound is on the leg, cover it with a large piece of gauze and keep this in place by bandaging above and below the wound. In this way you save the horse the discomfort of the bandage pressing on the actual wound. With the constant movement of the leg this can aggravate the wound considerably inspect the wound everyday carefully for fly strike. If you find maggots, wash with warm water to which some kerosene has been added. This will kill and remove the maggots and no harm will be done. In the case of bad wounds, injections of penicillin and anti-tetanus are advisable but, again, consult your Vet. In larger wounds, proud flesh is a problem which requires more extensive treatment. A solution of app. 28 g. (1 oz.) of bluestone and 28 g. (1 oz.) of alum, dissolved in a half litre (1 pint) of vinegar, sprayed on proud flesh twice a week, will burn it off. On all other days apply a healing salve.   [TOP]
To learn more about bandaging wounds CLICK HERE



The horse owner should have an emergency chest, which is always kept, in the same place. It should contain: -

1. A pair of wire cutters or a good sharp file. Do not rely on dad's if your horse gets caught in the fence, - you need the tool at Once.
2. Prescribed by your Vet: -
Antiseptic lotion and a dressing for a wound.
A relief for colic.
Packet of animal lintex for reducing inflammation. Elastic bandage and lint.
3. A buffer, hammer and pincers to take off a shoe. Even if you cannot do this yourself, have the tools handy.
4. A jar of 'Vicks' could be added. If he has a wet nose, it is a good preventative.
5. Sharp scissors and a good knife.

These items can all be needed in a hurry. There is no need to keep a large stock of medicines. You can go shopping if the horse has a cold or needs some other treatment.

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While the information contained in this website has been formulated with all due care by the Pony Club Association of Victoria,  The Pony Club Association of Victoria its servants and agents accept no responsibility  for any person acting or relying on or upon any opinion advise or information and disclaims all liability for any error, omission,defect or mis-statement (whether such error, omission, defect or misstatement is caused by or arises from negligence or otherwise on the part of the Pony Club Association of Victoria its servants and agents) or for any loss or other consequence which may arise from any person relying on anything within this website.
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