What, Why, and How much should you worry?
Hock sores can start as a little scuff in the hair one day and then lead to a bloody open wound literally overnight. When you first spot them on your horse’s hind legs they can be pretty alarming. But do you really need to worry about them or are they a symptom of something else that you should be focusing on?
If you horse has hock sores hold off on googling where to find horse-friendly bubble wrap for just a minute. In this post I’m filling you in on the who, what, when, and where of hock sores so you can get to the bottom of the scabby little buggers and get back to having a comfortable happy horse.
Everything you need to know to heal and prevent hock sores
What are they?
Hock sores are small scuffs or open sores that horses get on their hocks halfway down their back legs. They can appear to just be hair that is worn off or be actual open or scabbed over sores. In these pictures you can see the arrows and circles are pointing out areas on two horse’s hocks that hair has been scuffed leaving bald patches of dry skin.
What causes them?
Horses that lay down frequently can get hock sores from the boney joints of the hock rubbing on the surface of the ground or bedding. Just like people can get bed sores horses can too. They can be found on both horses that live outside and horses that are stalled.
They can also be caused when horses rub their backside against a wall or a post involuntarily scuffing their hocks in the process.
How worried should I be about them and why does my horse have them?
Hock sores usually come about as somewhat of a symptom of other things that are going on. If you think of them as being equivalent to bedsores in people you’ll get what I mean. As a person laying down for a normal amount of time at night wouldn’t give you bedsores, but being bedridden for weeks on end could. In horses they don’t need to be totally bedridden to bring on sores, even couple of extra hours a day is enough to do it. Or they could be laying down the same amount but the strength, moisture, and flexibility of their skin has changed making it more susceptible to sores.
If your horse starts getting hock sores there are a couple of questions you should investigate.
- Is there a reason that he is laying down more frequently than usual (sore legs, hoof issues, trying to stay warm, etc)?
- Have there been any environmental changes (new bedding, less bedding, stone screenings added the paddock, weather changes, etc)? The two horses in the pictures above both got rubs when the weather cooled down as they were spending more time burrowed up to stay warm. In this case one they acclimate to the season their hocks should be just fine.
- Are there any other rubs or scuffs on other areas of her body (tail rubbing, elbows that are scuffed up)?
- What is the health of his/her skin overall (in my experience horses with dry skin, dander or brittle coarse coats are going to be much more prone to scuffing and sores)?
- Does the horse have sore joints or circulation issues?
How do I get them to heal up?
The obvious choice for most people is to add load up the hocks with Corona (the salve not the beer), put on a pair of hock boots (these are my go-to for increasing circulation to speed healing), and add more fluffy bedding. While I would definitely recommend treating the sores and these strategies will help make them go away temporarily, they aren’t likely to be a long term solution.
Again thinking of hock sores as a symptom of something else you’ll understand how a horse with good circulation, and strong healthy skin, laying down a normal amount of time, is be able to avoid getting sores even if they live outside 24/7 without any fluffy bedding.
Going back to the questions under the “how worried should I be” section will guide you to find the best solution to healing and preventing them. Once you can pinpoint some of the potential causes you’ll be better able to ward off the sores by making sure that the horse’s body is comfortable and healthy overall.