What are Chestnuts on Horses?

Horses are undoubtedly beautiful creatures of this world. At the same time, they are a mystery to many. So much so that most people would like to ask so many questions if they ever get a chance to have a conversation with a horse. Such as, “does it hurt when you develop those patchy chestnuts? Or does it feel uncomfortable? Or do you wish to get it out of your leg?”

Perhaps, you are a curious person too. Keep reading to find out more!

What are Chestnuts?

Chestnuts have always been daily intriguing. We’re referring to the callosity which develops inside a horse’s foreleg and beneath the hock on the hind leg. They are sometimes referred to as “night eyes” by others.

What are Chestnuts

Nobody is sure why horses develop them. Various scientists think they are remnants of the multi-toed Equidae, which are ancient horses that could have possessed an extra toe. These originate from the vestigial toes of Eohippus, an ancient predecessor of today’s horse which existed 50 million years ago. According to those scientists, the ergots and chestnuts faded and lost their original role when equines developed. Many argue that they’ve evolved into smell glands.

These chestnuts were once supposed to be how horses could see at nighttime, which is why some people call them “night eyes”. Chestnuts, like human fingerprints, are unique to every horse. With some horses, the callus develops swiftly and could be scraped or cut back for a much more polished look, whereas the chestnut rarely emerges at all on others.

Fun fact: Putting a horse chestnut inside your pocket seems to be an ancient rodeo strategy that causes other horses to be keenly interested in you!

Difference between Chestnuts and Ergots

Not every horse has ergots, and a few may only have them on one or even two legs. They are on the rear of the horse’s fetlock, generally hidden by the horse’s fur. Ergots are challenging to see since the hair is usually long. You can feel the horses’ fetlocks when you rub them; these are small and pointed.

Difference between Chestnuts and Ergots

Ergots are a rough, prominent structure that grows from the fetlock. You could typically take them off with your nail; however, you could use a sharp knife if required. I suggest getting your farrier to inspect and treat the ergot before cutting it with a knife. Ergots can be as small as a pea or bean or as large as 1.5 inches in diameter. Ergots, unlike chestnuts, could be abundant on the forelegs but considerably smaller or nonexistent on the rear legs.

The difference between these two is that the chestnuts generally appear on the front legs of a horse, while the ergots are usually on the back legs. Chestnuts can be seen easily, while on the other hand, ergots are hard to find since they get hidden under the hair.

The Trimming of Chestnuts

Chestnuts are living tissue that grow throughout the horse’s life on the inside of the horse’s legs. Since they are constantly developing, you must clean them by trimming or peeling them. This may be an unpleasant procedure for the horse, therefore take additional precautions to avoid injuring your horse.

The Trimming of Chestnuts

Usually, chestnuts do not have to be trimmed. Instead, horse keepers pull off layers to smooth things out and make them seem neater. Whenever the area is moist, you can use a knife or a similar instrument to remove it. When the chestnut is damp, peeling and trimming it is considerably more straightforward.

If done correctly, the operation should be painless. However, stop immediately if your horse indicates that you are injuring it. You can remove stubborn chestnuts with petroleum jelly or baby oil.

Twisting the chestnut causes discomfort and frequently causes the chestnut to bleed. Another method for causing bleeding is to pull off a dried chestnut.

Final Thoughts

Chestnuts are distinct from every horse, and one could recognize them, like a human fingerprint. Whether they were placed on our horses’ legs deliberately or by chance, those weird lumps appear to have a job. Have all of your horse’s chestnuts and ergots been cleaned and trimmed? How would you keep them in good shape?

Cleaning and maintenance of your horse must be an exciting job. Now that you seem to have learned how to trim or peel down your horse’s chestnut (or even leave it as it is), it should be an easy task for you. However, remember not to cause any discomfort to the innocent animal while you do the cleaning job.

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