Written by: Various authors

Learn how to get rid of proud flesh, speed up spring shedding and how planting trees can benefit horses.

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How do I get rid of proud flesh?

Sent via email by Elaine

Proud flesh is an exuberant growth of granulation tissue, which is highly fibrous, full of small blood vessels and designed to help in the healing process. It is usually reddish in colour, bumpy and uneven. The appearance of this tissue means that scarring will soon occur.

“Granulation tissue is the body’s normal healing response, but when it gets carried away and protrudes from the edges of the skin it is known as proud flesh,” said Michael Stephenson, DVM.

Proud flesh often develops in limb wounds, likely because these wounds are difficult or impossible to suture, although, the exact cause is unknown.

“Primary closure (suturing) is the best approach to avoiding proud flesh. Proper bandaging minimizes the development of proud flesh also, for those wounds that can’t be sutured,” said Stephenson.

Tend to a fresh wound as soon as possible. Clean and cover the injury, then call the vet, who will suture the wound if possible. If not, applying a pressure bandage to bring the edges of the wound as close together as possible is the next best thing. If the wound is on or near a joint, this may not be a realistic option if you are unable to immobilize the joint, however.

Researchers are working to develop ways to artificially manipulate the levels of certain genes and proteins in leg wounds so that healing can occur in a manner similar to body wounds, which generally heal without problem.

Further, they are investigating the role of oxygen in this condition, as well as looking into the use of anti-cancer drugs to help slow blood vessel growth – an important component of proud flesh.

Once proud flesh has developed, there is only one sure way to remove it. “The old horseman’s trick was to use a caustic solution, which burns the flesh, but we’ve gotten away from that for obvious reasons, for humane reasons,” said Stephenson.

“Some people also advocate the use of topical steroids to minimize proud flesh and some even use Preparation H. That is not something I recommend,” said Stephenson. “The only real solution is to remove it with a scalpel, which should be done by a veterinarian.”

This answer was supplied in part by Michael Stephenson, DVM, of Brelmar Veterinary Clinic in Sunderland, ON, with files from Nicole Kitchener.

How can I speed up spring shedding?

Sent via email by Rebecca

It is helpful to understand that it is not cold weather which brings on the woollies, rather it is the declining daylight hours. Alternately, as the days lengthen in spring your horse begins to shed his long, thick winter coat.

If you’re looking to reduce the number of hours you spend grooming each spring, the best method is to increase his exposure to light over the winter. Leaving the lights on in the barn for two or three additional hours in the early morning and late at night can prevent such a long, thick coat from growing or cue the shedding response early, depending on when you begin the light therapy.

Be energy wise and use timers to turn the barn lights on during the night, when the cost of energy is lower. Installing high output lights in individual stalls is another option, which will make it possible to pick and choose which horses to shed out in a stable of many.

Up to 16 hours of natural or artificial light is required each day to ensure a short coat year-round. For your horse, this translates to a lot of time spent kept indoors under lights, as opposed to frolicking in the snow, so you must weigh the pros and cons to this method.

A bare horse is a chilly horse, so you should blanket him with a waterproof turnout rug in order to compensate for his missing winter coat. Also ensure that he is fed enough high-quality roughage to keep him warm, indoors and out.

The best grooming tool for combating the sloughing off of the winter coat is a metal shedding blade, which is a long flexible metal strip with teeth designed to remove large amounts of hair. Be careful on sensitive areas and don’t get overly enthusiastic or you will risk irritating the skin. A fibreglass shedding block is a good alternative to the blade. Follow up with a rubber curry comb, in small circular motions, to catch any leftover dirt and hair. Repeat the process several times a week.

Good tips to keep in mind when grooming in the spring: don’t wear fleece or lip gloss! Both tend to attract horse hair like a magnet.

How can planting trees on my property benefit my horse?

Sent via email by Shelly

The benefits of planting trees to horses include shelter from cold winter and dry summer winds, reduced exposure to sun, decreasing stress and providing a more comfortable living environment.

Additionally, the leaf litter provided by trees, as they drop their leaves each fall, improves the soil fertility of your pasture, resulting in improved nutrient intake by your horse. The roots of trees will further stabilize soil, reduce erosion and maintain water clarity, absorbing excess nutrients like nitrates from horse manure.

Conservation Authorities offer native tree and shrub planting programs at cost and will provide you with advice on species selection suitable to your watershed and beneficial to your horse.

Generally, the best place to plant trees for horse health is just outside the perimeter of the pasture. Planting native trees as opposed to ornamental varieties is important, as they benefit the natural ecosystem and are generally resistant to insect pests and disease.

It is important to not over plant and totally shade your pasture. Select species that are non-toxic and those that suit your wet or dry site conditions.

Spring is an excellent time to plant, as bareroot trees can be purchased in bulk quantities at wholesale costs through your local Conservation Authority.

Some examples of native and non-native trees NOT recommended around your pasture are red maple (Acer rubrum), Cherry (Prunus sp) and Black Locust (Robinia pseudocacia) due to their toxicity to horses and other livestock. Other dangerous trees include oaks (Quercus sp), horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus), pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), pine (Pinus sp) and yew (taxus sp).

If you already have some of these trees on your property and they are small enough, simply transplant them out of your horses’ reach. If they are too large, fencing around them or re-aligning pasture fencing is a simple solution to protect your horses.

Answer supplied by Patricia Lowe of the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority.