View Full Version : What's this bump on my horse's face?

06-06-09, 09:47 PM
My horse had a weeping eye today, which then swelled up within half an hour.
I also noticed a raised bony lump on his head which I'm sure I haven't seen before. So I thought perhaps he's whacked his head/eye area.

The vet was called straight away, and arrived an hour later.

During the time between me calling the vet, and them arriving, the swelling went down and it had stopped weeping. The eye looked almost normal.

Here's a pic I took of it after the swelling started to go down.
I'm not sure if it comes across clearly in the pic. It's a crappy camera phone pic.


The weeping had stopped by that point, and it was less swollen, but you can still see the puffyness in the bottom eyelid, the corner and the top lid.

The vet didn't think it was from trauma, but an allergic reaction to something, as the swelling went down so fast. She didn't think the bump on the head was related to the swollen eye.

What I'm now worried about -- what the heck is that bump on my horse's head? I'm almost positive that was never there. It's not tender, the horse doesn't seem to mind it prodded.
The vet said possibly old trauma... but why did I not see it earlier?!

Here are some old pics where there doesn't seem to be a bump.

http://www.lillybands.com/head/oldhead.jpg http://www.lillybands.com/head/oldhead2.jpg http://www.lillybands.com/head/oldhead3.jpg

Any ideas on what the lump could be? An old injury?
Does 'bighead' start out like this?
Is it worth getting xrays?

Perhaps it's not so much the bump that sticks out, but the groove above it?

06-06-09, 10:01 PM
BB sent me some interesting info on Big Head and I think Mindari has some experience on this matter.

Can't really see the bump to well, but a few questions for you.

What is the horses diet? What is the pasture, and how much access to the pasture?

How young/old is the horse? (Is pony cutting teeth?)

When were its teeth done last? (Could pony have tooth infection/abcess?)

Depending on the swelling/lump it could be a number of things...
Teething 'lumps'
Swelling/infection/inflammation of the sinus just to mention a few...

06-06-09, 10:07 PM
He's given a biccy of lucerne AM and PM, which he doesn't really need as he's in a large paddock 24/7 with lots of grass. There's no setaria.

He's 14, and his teeth were done 5 or 6 weeks ago. There were no ulcers or sharp edges in his mouth. His breath doesn't smell.

Inflammation or infection could be a possibility, as he is on antibiotics for a chest infection.

Poor boy has had a rather rough week.

Thanks for the reply. :)

06-06-09, 10:09 PM
Woops, forgot to add, he's also given a PM feed of Prydes EasiSport with white chaff. There's a barastoc mineral lick in the paddock.

The bump is a bit hard to see in the pic, but it's right where his white star is. It's sort of gradually raised if you follow up his nose, and then has a groove/indent where it meets his head again, above his eyes.
If that makes sense?

06-06-09, 10:19 PM
Setaria is not the only offender in big head. It is Calcium Oxyalate, which is in Seteria, Kikuyu and other grasses (Mainly coastal).


I would be looking at the chest infection as a potential issue...


The other thing I would have said, is he fed with his head up or down, but by the post he would have his head down most of the time, which allows the sinus' to drain.

Were his teeth done with the 'old file' or an electric drill??

06-06-09, 10:35 PM
My horse came up with a similar thing...overnight



The vet said it's from blunt trauma and that the lumps wouldn't go away. My friend who is also a vet showed me her text book which showed that the lumps lined up with the "suture lines". They have these this sections of their skull that can move as they come through the birth canal. Because the bone is thin and fragile, if there is any trauma to this area they naturally form their own splint by building new bone over the top.

At the time I posted photos and quite a few people told me they had experienced similar things, they all said their horses lumps went away after about a year. They were right, Rum's did as well :)

I was feeding him quite close to the fence, and I suspect something spooked him and he hit his head on the top wooden rail.

It does seem odd that it can appear overnight. My friends were saying that maybe I just hadn't noticed. But there's no way, I saw it before I got out of the car and I see him everyday. It was not sore to touch either. LOL this horse has thrown me some curly ones, but I think this one is the weirdest. But after seeing the text book with the pics of their skull, it does make alot of sense.

06-06-09, 10:45 PM
Google 'Bighead' and consider your location and pasture firstly.

Blunt trauma also a possibility obviously, if pasture not likely.
Gotta love the posers horses throw at us!

Good luck and keep us updated, sharing is caring etc!


06-06-09, 11:00 PM
Aargo, I don't really know anything about grasses, but on looking at pictures, I'd say his paddock has kikuyu in it. I think. I'm not really sure.
Though the vet didn't suggest big head.
He shares the paddock with another horse who doesn't have the same bump. Either way, I'll keep it in mind.

He's always fed in a bucket on the ground, and his teeth were done with the power float, under sedation (dentist is a vet)

06-06-09, 11:42 PM
"Oxalate and 'big head' disease in horses

The symptoms of 'big head' disease (Osteodystrophia fibrosa) are affected gait, poor performance and swelling of bones of the head. It is seen mostly in horses grazing pure buffel grass in western Queensland, and is not common on the Darling Downs because of the wider range of pasture species available.

Big head is a calcium imbalance caused when horses graze exclusively on grasses containing high levels of oxalate; that locks up calcium making it unabsorbable by the horse's intestine.

Many introduced grasses contain oxalate. Setarias, (purple pigeon grass has about half the oxalate content of other setarias) and buffel grasses contain the highest levels of oxalate followed by kikuyu, pangola and panics. Grasses with lower or zero oxalate content are rhodes, creeping bluegrass, couch, paspalum and many native grasses.

Mixing legumes (lucerne, clover, medic) with any high-oxalate grass in a grass/legume pasture will help to correct a calcium imbalance, while feeding calcium is also effective."


If you suspect this feed calcium and see how you go. Good luck. Regards

07-06-09, 11:39 AM
If it came up and went down very quickly I would guess it would be some sort of allergic reaction where a gland or two swelled up.

My horse was bitten by something on the face in the nose area and he has THOUSANDS of small and large lumps all over his body (I was VERY worried at the time) but particularly on his face. These are glands where they swelled up as an reaction to the bite. They all went down fairly quickly as the body dealth with the problem. He did look like the elephant man for a few hours though.

East Gippsland Hoof Care

07-06-09, 05:44 PM
I had a similar problem with one of my mares. She was about 5 months pregnant and a lump appeared pretty much out of nowhere one day. There was no sign of trauma, no broken skin or missing hair....just this hard bony lump. I figured she may have just turned to bite at a fly or have a scratch and just waited for it to go down, but within a couple of weeks, two more lumps (either side) had formed and I really started to worry.

I got the vet out who wasn't quite sure what it was and was referred straight away to Newcastle Equine Hospital. She was X-rayed and had a scope up her nose and the x-ray showed a suspitious yet inconclusive mass while the scope revealed there were no blockages or growths in the passages so the vet decided to treat it as a trauma with the view that if it increased in size or she had discharge from her nose then she would need to be re-assessed.

The lumps seemed to stop growing but didn't subside and she foaled without any problem and surprisingly since she has had the foal (now 6 months), the lumps have all but receeded!!

My guess is that it was either hormonal or that the paddock she was in before I moved her 5 months into the pregnancy was 90% kaikuyu....

Have attached a couple of pics the day after she foaled....



I think if the lump increases in size or he has any discharge from his nose then you should definately get an opinion from an equine vet. Good luck - hope you get him sorted.

07-06-09, 07:06 PM
Thanks guys.

I'm pretty sure it's not going to be big head.
There are approx 30 other horses on the property with no issues.

The sinus/infection/inflammation sounds likely.

He started on antibiotics yesterday, and I actually think it had gone down a bit overnight.

Here's a pic of the poor boy's nose today.


07-06-09, 10:06 PM
Lol...mmm nice pic, I'd go with infection...given discharge.

Also the reason I mentioned the mechanical tool, is a friend of mine had a horse done, the tool got too hot and damaged a molar, and it became infected...

This is one of the possible disadvantages of tools vs files.

Just another possibility...

08-06-09, 11:05 AM
as aargo said I had a mare with big head, she was born in taree and her mum appaently died when she was 12 weeks old and the owners were absentee farmers and didnt go up for another 6 months, she survived but whatever the pasture was she developed big head big time. poor thing.

anyway i bought her as a 7 year old and she produced a beautiful filly for me perfectly normal.

one of my horses suddenly developed just the lump you are describing on his face between his eyes, it just kept growing like a forming unicorns horn. he was away on agistment so havent a clue what he was eating, my vet said either infection of calcium deficiency so he was treated for both. it took nearly two years but he is now normal again and it has finally gone almost totally flat forehead again

yet the actual bulge felt like bone?

go figure

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur

08-06-09, 01:03 PM



diseases of the para nasal sinus:


frontal sinus cyst
(pic for contrast)

Could we see some pics from today (the lump) if possible ?