Where the heck did these spots come from?

Over the past week, I’ve been trying to determine the cause of hair loss on my gelding’s back legs. I’m going to share my observations, pose some potential ailments, and then ask you for your best guess. It’s not serious, and I haven’t felt the need to call my vet. So let’s see what we come up with!

  • displacedsdftJune 23 – the last day of a two-day horse show. I removed Moe’s Back on Track therapeutic hock boots in the morning – I use them after jumping to prevent arthritis pain. The joint was sweaty from wearing the boots all night, and two round bumps had formed on the point of the hock. I cold hosed and walked. The bumps were not hot or painful, and Moe displayed no stiffness. Over the next two weeks, the bumps reduce in size until they are completely gone.
  • Week of June 30 – at the site where the bump had been on the right hock, a small patch of hair appears to stand up. A scab forms under the hair.
  • July 5th and 6th – the scab comes loose and reveals smooth pink skin underneath. There is no bleeding. A smaller patch of hair begins to stand up in the same location on the left hock.
  • Week of July 14 – new hair begins to grow on the right hock, and the same scab forms and comes loose from the left hock. Again, smooth pink skin is revealed beneath.
  • July 27 – as new hair grows fills in the patch on the right hock, I can see that it is white and not chestnut. The hair on the smaller patch also appears to be coming in white.

I took these photos of the patches on Sunday:

At first, the way the hair stood up from scabs forming on the skin led me to suspect rain rot. But it’s not that common in Manitoba in the summer because of our hot, dry conditions. We have had a lot of rain, but my horse is stabled indoors during bad weather. His hocks do tend to sweat under the Back on Track boots, but I have been using them regularly since May and the condition has not worsened or reappeared.

Next, I suspected a neoprene allergy. But Moe also wear’s Professional’s Choice brand sports medicine boots and VENtech girth, and these patches have not appeared anywhere else.

Now that the hair has grown in, I suspect trauma. Have you ever seen the white patches that form on the withers of a horse wearing too narrow a saddle? That’s what these patches remind me of. Moe lays down to sleep every night in his stall – is it possible that he somehow banged in hocks while getting up or down in his stall at the horse show?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these strange patches.

23 thoughts on “Where the heck did these spots come from?

    • I haven’t seen him kick the walls, but does roll in his stall when I put fresh bedding in. He definitely could have banged them that way.

  1. Kiirsten- I’m guessing a fungal growth underneath the neoprene? Neoprene traps in the moisture and it can get quite ripe under there. And as for the white…trauma to the hair follicles on horses often turns white, as long as the damage is significant enough.
    I know pressure points can do this to ie: the top of the neck hole on a blanket- both Sonny and Bri (and Tag if you look) have white on their withers from tight blanket neck openings.

    • That’s a good point. Maybe I’ll wash Moe’s back end down with an iodine solution, and I’ll throw his hock boots in the wash with some vinegar. If I can kill any fungus that’s in there now and just use the boots for a few hours at a time, I can probably stop it from coming back.

  2. I think fungal as well. There is a papaya paste that works wonderfully on rain rot which looks so much nicer than gentian violet. I will try to find out where to source it and what exactly it is called.

  3. iodine and vinegar may cause more drying than you would want i would use a mixture of sulfur and mineral oil add 3 to 5 drops iodine this work for fungal as well as heat sore stress and trauma m.t.g will also solve this problem

  4. Kiirsten, what your describing sounds like tissue or muscle atrophy. If you look at the left photo where the white patch is, the area is flat and almost convex in comparison to the rest of the tendon.The right hawk is more damaged than the left, suggesting he lies more on his right side. The hairs may never get there pigment back, but if the boots are no longer used the tissue should regenerate.

  5. Hi Kiirsten, after looking at the picture of the hock boots, I’m wondering was the swelling after located where the hole in the boots is located? Did you put any liniment under the boot? I have seen similar type of markings occur after a horse has been blistered or a boot/bandage restricted/altered blood flow (I’ve had it happen just from leather open front jumping boot straps) looking at the white marks it looks like they would be located around the edging of the hole. From what I understand of the back on track products they are to help increase the blood flow to the area that they are applied to, but what happens when you increase the blood flow only for it to be restricted by the edging of the wrap used to keep the wrap from shifting?

    • The opening in the boots is right around the point of the hock, but the swelling actually occurred just on top the point – right where the top strap would sit. If I leave the wraps on for more than three hours, some swelling does occur around the areas where the wrap isn’t totally snug – mainly the opening on the front and the hole on the back.

    • Yes, but I’m not sure if that kind of pressure would cause the skin to scab up and the hair to drop off first.

  6. Is your horse blanketed a lot? The back leg straps would sit there if it doesn’t fit properly. That’s the only reason it could be.

    • My horse is blanketed a lot – and insulated winter blanket from November/December to March/April, and then a fly sheet from June to September. He does have spots where the hair has been rubbed away from the leg straps, but that’s much higher up on his legs. The straps never hang so low that they touch his hocks.

  7. I would suspect it was from the increased circulation due to the hock boots. I too use them but never for more than an hour. Back on track has great products but they are used for short periods of time. Overuse can create a negative response from the body. I know a horse who wore his new back on track blanket for 24 hours straight and came up so sore and sensitive to anything touching his skin where the blanket had been. The over stimulation of the nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems can create extreme reactions in the body. My guess is that a point was over stimulated and that caused the reaction you noticed. I would suggest putting tea tree oil on to help the rejuvenation of the skin and encourage new hair growth.

    • It seems like quite a few people have had this experience with Back on Track products. Right now, I put the boots on after my last class at a horse show and then take them off after two or three hours. I haven’t had any more weird spots, so the shorter time periods seem to be working.

  8. I also use(d) the back on track hock boots during and after my mares recovery from a truly nasty infection in her hock joint. They worked super well, but when used for longer periods of time they did the same thing on her tendon. I find your best bet with these is to stick to around 4 hours. The max of 8 is often just too much time, and they rub too much if they are loose enough to facilitate movement, but if they are tight enough to restrict rubbing you do get pressure points. I think the point about fungus is valid as well, as they do get pretty funky. I found great success with that product, but they aren’t without their problems, much like anything else. Thanks to the increased circulation from these products (I got the standing bandages as well) and admittedly a ton of hard work on my part, a mare that should really be dead is nearly perfectly sound. They helped a lot considering she was in to much pain to move to get the blood flowing to her lower limbs. 🙂

    • Good to know! The hair has already fully grown in on his hocks and its solid white, but I will remember to apply vitamin E if it ever happens again.

  9. Pingback: Cause of the white spots revealed | Dominion Veterinary Labs

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