The initial abscessing that occurs in a fresh laminitis or founder episode almost every time will be in the region of sole, just inside the white line at the toe and in many cases occurs about two weeks after the first signs of founder. The sole at the toe isn’t always the place it erupts or drains from, but that’s almost always where it occurs first and there will always be signs of trauma in the sole in the toe region after the first one or two trims. The reason this is the first location of abscessing is because as the coffin bone is in motion from the ever increasing lack of lamina support and the tip rotating more downward towards the sole, the tip of the coffin bone irritates the inside of the sole as the horse walks. This isn’t the only issue surrounding this abscess episode, but this is a good part of it.
Abscesses tend to occur more frequently during the first year of recovery and then tend to begin to subside as the recovery process and the ‘de-rotation’ process progresses. They will be of varying degrees of severity in size, location and pain, based on the amount of ‘house cleaning’ the abscess is performing inside the hoof. This is why I prefer to let the abscesses ‘mature’ before helping them evacuate. Abscesses can be anywhere from a pinhole in the sole or hairline, or a full blown ‘crater’ in the sole to an inch or two long slit at the hairline. Some abscesses in the sole can look like a ‘bubble’ at the tip of the apex of the frog, while others undermine the entire sole, and still others erupt from the bulbs of the heels to list a few examples. The tolerance level of each horse will be different depending on how stoic or how sensitive he is. Each horse deals with pain in much the same manner as humans; some do better than others. Of course, your results may vary. Seriously, there are many many variables surrounding the healing process and the severity of the case will have much to do with how many and how severe the abscesses will be.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a guide to help understand when, where or how the abscesses will occur. But piecing the puzzle together at the onset of the episode will help to know whether the abscess is a good one, what it’s doing and sometimes will help to foresee where the abscess will erupt from. It’s not an exact science, but I’ve been able to help understand and predict many of them. This, however, does NOT help in lessening the amount of pain your horse will have to go through simply because we can tell something about the abscess. This is where pain management comes into play, which may include the use of some standard drugs and / or some foam rubber pads to cushion the foot.