Horse Sense Myth Buster: Horse Warts & Pliers
Mar 22, 2011
There is a phenomenon with human beings that if one event closely follows another event we credit the first event for the second event. Horse people seem to be especially susceptible to this phenomenon. I fell victim to this assumption back when I was a young farrier.
I was an apprentice farrier, my boss Dennis Wertenberger and I were at a large horse farm. As the apprentice it was my job to trim the feet of all the wild yearlings. The first yearling I walked up too had about 100 unsightly warts covering its muzzle. I soon found out that almost all the yearlings had at least some growths on their face.
I ask my boss, an old time farrier how to get rid of these growths. He shuffled his feet, spit on the ground and in his slow draw mumbled; "I could tell you but you won't believe me". After a few minutes of assurance that I would believe him, he mumbled his secret. "You pull a few off with some pliers," he asserted, "and feed the warts to the horse."
I was skeptical but I had promised to believe him, so as I trimmed the yearlings' feet I would pull some warts off their face and put them in the feed pan. Yearlings at this particular farm were only worked with every six weeks when I trimmed their feet. They were already pretty wild. Ripping skin off their sensitive muzzles with pliers did nothing to improve their moods.
Over the busy weeks I forgot about the yearlings, their unsightly growths, and the dripping blood where I had ripped skin from their muzzles'. Six weeks later we were back at the farm to trim the horses. I walked up to the first yearling and immediately noticed two things. First he had not forgotten the guy that had pinched his muzzle. Secondly, and more importantly the warts were gone, completely gone! This was amazing; the old time treatment had worked!
That was enough for me. I told everyone that would listen that I knew the secret to curing warts in horses. Every young horse I ran across with warts had them ripped off with pliers and put in the feed dish. My treatment worked every single time.
Years later I sat in a classroom at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. The topic for the session was warts and other noncancerous tumors in horses. I sat at my desk a bit smug, after all I knew the cure, why did I need this lecture?
The professor explained that warts were caused by the highly contagious papilloma virus. The virus usually only affects young horses. The obvious warts the virus caused were self limiting. Wait a minute, did he say self limiting? You mean even if I didn't rip a few off and feed them to the horse the warts would have gone away on their own? I thought back to all the poor youngsters that had experienced me tearing pieces of skin off their sensitive muzzle, all the blood and all the extra work trimming infuriated yearlings. The disease is self limiting!
How could I be blamed? My treatment worked every single time. Of course that's the trap; it always seems as if the first event caused the second event. As I have matured into an experienced veterinarian, I try to avoid assumptions that cause me to do things like rip growths off the sensitive muzzle of a yearling. Maybe all horse people should try to be more aware.
For an educational discussion about horse warts and the papilloma virus go to the education and resources area of our website www.ckequinehospital.com.
Robert H Koontz DVM
Chief executive Officer
Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital