Cause and Treating Proud Flesh in Horses

It seems like some of our horses truly believe anything worth doing is worth overdoing. This is because I know a few lucky horse owners who have horses that never had a scratch on them. Their horses lived at the same barn as mine, had the same routine as mine, and were always healthy and sound. Horse experienced proud flesh treatment.

I’m not saying I’m jealous of their exceptionally careful horses but…. Well, let’s just say I’m definitely wishing I had gone to vet school because, I’ve paid more than enough in vet bills to cover the cost of a degree! 

Causes and Treatment of Proud Flesh

If your horse is anything like mine, then you’ve had your fair share of injuries. It’s not “if,” it’s “when.” So it wasn’t much of a shock when my horse came in from turnout, with a whopper of a cut on his lower leg. Being on a Sunday evening, Firstly, I got out my aid kit, which I got from my accident-prone gelding, and placed the weight on the horse’s leg, I decided not to make the emergency vet call, thus, began the usual treatment of cleaning, wrapping, and pouring an ointment on it. At the time, all seemed great and I left my guy to his dinner. 


Two weeks later and something still wasn’t right with his injury. The injury never healed at all! In fact, it seemed to be… um, growing? It looked ugly to say the least. At that point, I began questioning (and regretting,) my initial decision of not calling a vet. 

I broke down and this time, I decided to make the call to my vet, who later replied that “my horse has proud flesh.” (I assume everyone hears the same scary music here…) 

So, whether your budget is too tight to call your vet for every injury your accident-prone horse receives, (like mine), or you really didn’t think it was that bad of an injury to begin with, (uh, also like me!) Whatever the case maybe, you will find yourself in a deep mess, if you fail to call the attention of a vet. 

That being said, let’s talk about what exactly causes proud flesh, how to treat and get rid of it, and most importantly, how to prevent your horse from getting it in the first place.

Proud Flesh and Ice Cream

Proud flesh is also known as exuberant granulation tissue. It’s the excessive growth of connective tissue and blood vessels that fill in a healing wound. In severe cases, the tissue can take on a mounding, lumpy appearance and protrude beyond the surface of the skin. Asa result of this, new skin will be unable to grow over the tissue, and heal the stalls. 

Proud Flesh and Ice Cream

Proud flesh is most frequently seen in wounds on the lower legs, and the constant tension and movement in that area often cause pain to the horse. Under the right conditions, proud flesh can appear anywhere on the body. 

Here’s the thing – as scary as it seems, and definitely looks, in contrary, proud flesh is actually a normal tissue.  Yes, it’s a product of normal and healthy healing. You can think of it like your favorite ice cream, in which a little is awesome, (some might even say a little ice cream is necessary…), but too much is equally unhealthy. 

As such, if you would want to know more about how your horse heals wounds, this article will give you a truly in-depth look at the different layers of your horse’s skin, and their healing processes. So what do you do once-proud flesh starts to take over?

Snip Snip

If proud flesh does occur, there are a couple of options for you and your vet to discuss.

Causes and Treatment of Proud Flesh Snip Snip

  • Trim the proud flesh. Surgical removal of the exuberant granulation tissue is the most common initial treatment, which usually provides the best results. In this process, the granulated tissue will be cut back to be leveled with the skin. This will then allow healthy skin layers to begin growing over the wound. Proud flesh bleeds heavily when trimmed, as it has a hearty blood supply. But the good news is, when Proud flesh does not tamper with any nerves on your horse, it won’t feel any pain.
  • Wrap the injury. After trimming, keeping a wrap on the wound can prevent proud flesh from bulging above the skin again. This will help in demobilizing the wound, prevent tension or tearing and invariably speed up the healing process.
  • Medicate your horse. Your vet may recommend a topical steroid and/or an antibiotic. Cortisone has been shown to slow the growth of granulation tissue and is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
  • Ask questions! Seek help when you observe a stop in the healing process, or things don’t seem to be progressing. And also, check in with your vet before applying any over the counter treatments because, most are designed to eat away flesh of all kinds, including healthy tissue. If such medication is given to the horse, it can severely slow down the healing process, and can even incur pains on the horse. 
  • Don’t quit! If the proud flesh bulges again, it may need to be trimmed again… and again, and again… Keep going, (no matter how frustrating it is), and your horse’s injury will be healed.

Let’s Not Do This Again

So now you’re through the worst of it, your horse is good and healed and your treating days are over. Until your good ‘old accident-prone horse comes up with a brand spanking new injury (sigh.) How do you prevent another round of proud flesh from developing in the first place? 

The best prevention is by keeping the wound clean, stagnant, and open. This article does a great job of describing the risks that come with wrapping a wound for a long period of time because it’s best to flush it daily and keep the stress of using it to a minimum. If you observe any complications, draw the attention of your vet early, and apply an anti-inflammatory topical treatment. Usually, one or two treatments with an anti-inflammatory are often more than enough. 

Causes and Treatment of Proud Flesh Let’s Not Do This Again

This Is Not The End

In most cases, you can probably manage your horse’s minor injuries yourself. Proud flesh is a wicked ailment with a heck of treatment regimens because the very best option is prevention. But if you’re where I was and you’ve got this doozy in your hands, it’s not the end of the world. Not if you’re aggressive in treatments and always stay on top of everything your horse needs.

Being a good steward of their wound is the most important thing. If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian.

Check out this overview of Proud Flesh from Kentucky Equine Research.

Did we miss something? Comment below if we’ve left something out concerning the treatment of proud flesh. Let us know your experiences, as well as the treatments you and your vet have used to overcome and prevent proud flesh from developing.

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