What the heck is this swollen soft thing on my horse’s elbow?
It’s most likely a shoe boil, but as with all things horse, any unknown lumps and bumps should be checked out by a Veterinarian, just to be sure.
A shoe boil is a fancy way of describing a soft squishy swelling on or very near your horse’s elbow. They are commonly caused by the heel of the hoof or the heel of a horse shoe squishing into the elbow while your horse is laying down. This action is irritating, and sometimes the area of the shoe boil fills with fluid or blood over time, creating a seroma or hematoma. This seroma or hematoma is what you feel, and see, around the elbow of your horse.
Very often shoe boils feel like pudding under the skin. Your horse will move normally, and in some cases they will decrease in size after exercise. Most shoe boils on horses are benign, but of course it’s horses, so there’s always the exception to the rule. Occasionally a shoe boil becomes infected, likely through a small cut or abrasion to the skin where the heel of the shoe or hoof rubs your horse. In that case, a call to your Veterinarian is mandatory, as fever and lameness and big bad infections can follow.
Check out the front hoof - tucked up against the elbow. The beginnings of a shoe boil!
You have several options to deal with shoe boils. You can have them drained, and in some cases this is the best choice. This reduces the look of the boil and takes the swelling down. The downside is that your horse now has a needle hole in which bacteria can enter, possibly leading to infection.
You can also try and prevent further irritation to the elbow area, which allows the squishy fluid to drain and heal. You can accomplish this by using a boil boot, which is a hard-ish donut that is secured around the pastern of the offending leg. (A side note here - the leg with the shoe boil is not always the leg that is doing the damage - you may need to spy on your horse while he’s resting to see how he tucks his legs). You can also help matters by adding more bedding where he likes to sleep, this allows for some cushion.
You can find shoe boil boots in some stores, or order online!
What have you done to combat shoe boils?