What's the deal with chestnuts and ergots on my horse's legs?
Let's start at the beginning - some of which may, or not be, factual. But it's kinda fun. So, many believe that chestnuts and ergots are vestigial toes that have migrated. Some believe they are vestigial scent glands. This latter theory explains why it's been said that you can carry the chestnut peelings of another horse into the paddock, and the horses there will come up to you to investigate, thus making catching easier. (Has this worked for anyone?)
These chestnuts are smaller, and more flat. Regular massage and peeling helps.
All shapes and sizes! These hind leg chestnuts look like a saxophone.
At any rate, chestnuts are on the inside of the legs above the knee and below the hock. They are kinda scratchy. Ergots are those pointy boogers on the back/bottom of fetlocks. (And a personal pet peeve of mine.) Some horses have chestnuts and ergots, some do not.
These chestnuts are bananas.
Chestnuts also go by the name of "night eye". Many of us like to keep them flat and tidy, otherwise they can be a little lumpy and sometimes really pokey and long. The easiest way to keep them tidy is to peel them when they are wet. After a shampoo bath and rinse may be the best time to peel them. Or, you can keep them oiled up with a baby oil or moisturizer and peel them after they are nice and soft. I don't like the idea of using a blade or razor to remove them. In my hands, this is a recipe for a disaster by either cutting too deep, or having a wiggly horse wiggle into my blade. But the truth is I would probably slice my own finger off handling a blade.
Getting them soft and peeling has always worked for me.
On show day, you can spiff them up with a coat of oil (like mineral or olive), or you can just let 'em be.
Ergots range in size from little nubs to these kickstands.
Ergots are also easily removed in the washrack after a shampoo and rinse. Just use your fingernails. Please don't let them turn into kickstands or I will hunt you down and peel them off and then smack you with them.
How do you groom your horse's ergots and chestnuts?