Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Burs or Burdock in Forelock of Mane Causing Irritation to Eyes

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If you notice other problems with the eye or the eye seems inflamed and painful.

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

  • If the eye appears otherwise normal.
  • The eye does not seem painful and the horse does not seem distressed.

Cocklebur and burdock plants both produce burs or seed pods that are covered in prickly spines. These burs easily attach to a horse’s mane and tail. They are usually just a nuisance, but sometimes they can cause serious problems if not quickly removed.

When these burs get tangled in the forelock and mane near a horse’s face, they can rub up against a horse’s eyes, causing corneal ulceration and irritation. Horses often develop severe eye irritation as a consequence of Burrdock and Cockle Bur accumulation in forelocks. In some cases, veterinary examination and treatment is required.

WHAT TO DO

Assess the horse’s eyes, looking for squinting, watering or reddening of the whites of the eyes. Given the importance of your horse’s sight, promptly contact your vet with your findings and concerns if you notice any eye irritation, swelling, redness or discharge.

If you have horses that are kept in pastures in which there is Burrdock or Cocklebur, you should regularly remove accumulations of these spiny pods from the horses’ manes and tails.

The burs can be very difficult to remove. I have found that spraying the mane with a cooking oil (such as Pam), or using lubricating products like Show-Sheen, helps to loosen these burs for easier removal.

Contact your agricultural local extension agent for ecologically sound methods for control of these plants in your pasture.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet assesses the eye for damage and removes any foreign bodies or material. They may have recommendations for how to manage the problem in the future.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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