What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Burs or Burdock in Forelock of Mane Causing Irritation to Eyes


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.

  • 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.

your role


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. Spraying the mane and tail with a cooking oil (such as Pam), or using lubricating products like Show-Sheen, helps to loosen these burs for easier removal. Be sure to check the tail too.

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

your vet's role

Your vet assesses the eye for damage and removes any foreign bodies or material from the forelock that could cause a problem. They may have recommendations for how to manage or prevent the problem in the future.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Do you notice anything wrong with the appearance of the horse's eyes?
  • Have you been able to remove the burrs?
  • How are you going to prevent the problem from happening again?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP