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"bed sores"

From: Bill

Hi Jessica,

Thanks so much for Horse Sense. There are many horses and riders who are happier and more comfortable thanks to your advice.

I work in a private ten-horse barn. Six of the horses (including mine) are boarders and the people who pay me own the other four. We bed our horses on shavings. I am supposed to put a half bag of shavings every other day, but use as much bedding in the stalls as I can without getting in trouble (robbing from the rich to give to the poor). Last winter one of the owner's horses started to get roughed up fur on his hip (Gaskin area?). This horse is twenty something and has been retired due to an unidentified front leg lameness. The fur eventually was rubbed off and became a wound that resembles a bedsore. About a month ago, following the vet's advice, we started bedding him (the horse not the vet) on straw. This seems to have helped but the wounds are still there. They seem to get better, worse, better, worse. The horse's owner rubs Corona into them daily and bathes them with a special shampoo bi-weekly.

I have heard that stall mats are the answer to this problem, but due to the expense and hassle, I expect that they will not be used. Is there anything else that can be done? I know it would be best if the old guy could be turned out 24-7 but we do not have the facilities for this. All the horses are turned out for the day and brought in at night. Please help if you can, my horse is starting to get a rough patch and hock sores too.

Hi Bill! This sounds like a classic case of insufficient bedding. Horses are very heavy animals, and their hips and hocks have bones that are close to the surface. When a horse lies down on a hard surface (wood or concrete or road-pack or hard clay), the pressure can cause rubs, and cut off the circulation, and cause injuries -- the "bed sores" you've described, plus (often) capped hocks.

Is there absolutely NO way that the horses could be turned out at night too, either left out all day or just brought in to eat and then turned out again? Even hard ground, out of doors, usually has much more "give" than stall surfaces, and horses outdoors can sleep flat on their sides, whereas in stalls, they tend to curl up because there's not enough room to go flat, and because in a stall, the ammonia and dust at floor level make it hard for horses to breathe.

If they must be indoors at night, you'll have to use more bedding. On a normal surface, six to eight inches of shavings might be enough; if the barn is an old dairy barn or something similar, with concrete floors in the stalls, you'll need to talk to the owners about the possibility of putting in mats -- and about the need to use enough bedding!

If the owners aren't responsive to this (and you seem to think they won't be), you'll need to arrange to get more bedding even if it means that you have to pay for it. In fact, you may want to get together with the other boarders and talk about placing a joint order for rubber mats. You may find that it's worth the expense to buy your own rubber mats; after all, the cost of extra bedding isn't cheap -- and neither are vet bills! And if the horses are kept in stalls with insufficient bedding, the inevitable result will be vet bills, probably accompanied by a strong suggestion to use enough bedding, which will mean buying more bedding ANYWAY. So why not do it before the sores develop?

Perhaps the owners simply don't have much experience with horses and aren't aware of what horses actually need to stay healthy. You may be able to educate them, but I suggest that you talk to your vet about the problem and the various options (he may have other suggestions, too) BEFORE you talk to the owners -- get as much well-informed "back-up" as you can. If several horse-owners come in at once, all concerned about the same thing, all with their vets' recommendations to back them up, and all of them willing to pay to make their horses comfortable, it's more likely that something will be done.

Good luck to you -- this is NOT a good situation, as you know, even though you've managed to keep your sense of humour about it. It's a very uncomfortable feeling to be keeping a horse at a facility where basic, minimal care is something you have to beg for or pay extra to get.


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