What is Brushing?
Brushing in horses, commonly known as interfering, is an abnormality in the lateral gait. This defect occurs when the horse’s limb swings to the side, causing the shoe or hoof to make contact with the other, opposite leg. Brushing, or interfering, can vary according to speed at which the horse is walking or jogging. It also may occur only during specific types of leg movement, such as only when jogging or only when trotting. Interference of the limbs in the front typically happens from hoof to knee, while hind leg brushing commonly occurs from hoof to fetlock. The rubbing together of the legs can cause abnormalities in gait, and challenges in working or competition horses.
Brushing tends to occur in horses that have characteristics of chests that are narrow or horses that toe out. This abnormal gait most commonly happens when the horse is at a trot. This condition is difficult to treat in severe cases, but with specific therapeutic support guided by your veterinarian, your horse’s interference can improve over time.
Brushing in horses is the result of an abnormality in the footing of the horse. It typically is characterized by one hoof or forelimb interfering with the opposite leg when walking, jogging, or trotting.
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Symptoms of Brushing in Horses
Symptoms of brushing in horses are quite noticeable and can vary from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:
- Loss of hair on the leg
- Swelling and pain on the leg
- Heat around the affected area
- Ulcers or lacerations
- Bone damage
- Pulled shoes
There are other specific types of disorders in horses’ gait and leg movements. Other types of abnormalities in the footing, legs, or gait of horses may include:
- Suprascapular nerve injury
- Radial nerve paralysis
- Femoral nerve damage
- Peroneus tertius tendon rupture
- Superficial digital flexor tendon
- Intermittent upward fixation of the patella
Causes of Brushing in Horses
Typically, brushing is caused by the horse’s conformation. Other causes may be preventable, and some of these causes can include:
- Inexperienced and young horses
- Poor coordination
- Tired and unmotivated horses
- Horses that work on uneven ground
Diagnosis of Brushing in Horses
If you are seeing signs of brushing in your horse, consult with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will help you decide on the best ways to protect your companion against any lameness.
Your veterinarian or farrier will closely examine your horse during many types of movements. He will observe your horse as he walks, trots, jogs, and more to take a closer look at his interference. The veterinarian will also closely examine your horse’s conformation and pattern of his foot flight. He will do so on a hard, even surface with the horse having a square stance. He will look closely at his feet and observe whether his foot is turning in or out, as well as his chest characteristics (wide or narrow). He will then watch the horse as he walks and trots, both toward him and away from him. He will be watching to see how the foot is striking the surface of the ground. All of these observations will be carefully noted so the professional can diagnose the abnormality of the gait and suggest a proper plan of action for treatment.
The medical professional may also choose to do an ultrasound on the legs if he observes any swelling and heat from the leg. This could be caused by the interference, as the shoe or hoof has repeatedly brushed against the other leg. He will be using the results of the ultrasound to determine if your horse may have subcutaneous seroma, which is a collection, or pocket, a fluid that has developed under the skin. If this is present, the veterinarian may suggest possible drainage of this area using a needle or tiny laceration. This will help the horse’s fluid expel and the horse’s leg to be rid of the painful inflammation.
Treatment of Brushing in Horses
Most cases of interference in the forelimb of the horse can be treated. For cases in which the opposite leg is painful from the repeated brushing, rest and anti-inflammatories may be given. Treatment methods will be explained to you by your veterinarian. They may include:
Corrective shoeing may be incorporated into your horse’s therapy plan. Half round section shoes may be considered to help with the brushing. For a slight amount of interference, boots that protect the hoof may even be beneficial. In addition to corrective shoeing or adding boots, changing riders or methods in riding can help as well.
For mild and sporadic cases of interference, bindings or bandages may be applied to protect the other leg against hair loss or lesions from the brushing. Bindings and bandages may be used in place of therapy or during the therapy to improve the horse’s interference.
If a procedure was conducted to release any pressure from a subcutaneous seroma, antibiotics and a topical antisepsis will be applied while the horse’s leg heals. An anti-inflammatory medication may also be administered. To ease any other pain in the leg, a topical application of flumethasone with dimethyl sulfoxide may be applied.
Recovery of Brushing in Horses
Horses that suffer from interference can have therapy or protective shoeing to help them manage the brushing. If your horse is receiving therapy, your veterinarian will guide you along the way and give you advice to help with your horse. He will show you how to properly use any corrective shoeing or boots and give you as many options as to any other types of therapy.
Working with your horse and a therapist may help your horse over time. The type of therapy and treatment will depend on your horse and what your horse’s activity levels are. Alternative therapy methods may be introduced if your horse is a show horse or race horse, and this will be decided upon you as a horse owner.