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My grandchildren are fascinated by chestnuts and ergots on one of our older horses.It is routinely asked why he has them and what they are for.Eventually, I did some research to discover what they were for.

Horse chestnuts and ergots are calluses on a horse's legs.A chestnut was believed to be the remnant of an extra toe lost to evolution.Rather than having hair, these areas are flat and crusty.Ergots are callused growths under the horse's fetlock that are often covered by hair.

Chestnuts and ergots are largely cosmetic and typically don't require much maintenance.It is helpful to have a thorough understanding of horses if you need to answer your child's questions.

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What is a chestnut on a horse?

You should not be alarmed if you see a bare patch of skin on your horse's leg. It is likely the animal's chestnut.If bleeding occurs, these bare spots are not dangerous.

Scientists have indicated chestnuts and ergots were present in the early species of multi-toed horses, or Equidae."These types of horses descend from the "Eohippus." a modern period ancestor that has vestiges of toes from around 40 million years ago.


Horses evolved slowly, and the extra toe lost its functionality and shrank, eventually becoming chestnuts and ergots.As a theory, the third toe is not accepted as fact.

Chestnuts are located on horses’ legs.

The chestnuts typically develop on your horse's front legs just above the knee, as well as beneath the hock on its rear legs.Most are flat, scratchy and hairless, but they can be quite large or quite small.

The chestnut pattern of each horse is unique, just like a snowflake.

Are chestnuts different from the ergots?

Some horses may only have ergots on one or two of their legs, and not all horses have them.

This spot has long hair, making it difficult to see ergots.If you rub beneath the horses' fetlocks, you can feel their narrow and pointy size.

There is a rough protruding structure above the fetlock called the ergot.If necessary, you can use a sharp knife to peel them off.

I would recommend having your farrier treat the ergot before cutting it with a knife.Ergots range in size from the size of a bean or pea to 1.5 inches.

As opposed to chestnuts, ergots can be deeply embedded on forelegs but much smaller or absent from the hind legs.


Can I trim the chestnuts?

A chestnut is living tissue that grows on the horse's inside legs throughout its life.

Trimming and peeling are needed to maintain their growth, which can be a painful process for the horse and requires extra care.

In the video below, Rick Gore shows how easy it is to peel the chestnuts.Most chestnuts don't require trimming; all they need is some peeling off to give them a smoother appearance.

If the area is wet, you can use a knife or a similar tool to make light work of scraping it.While wet, peeling chestnuts or trimming is easier.

The process, if done correctly, is painless, but stop if you think your horse is being hurt.The removal of hard chestnuts can be accomplished by applying petroleum jelly or baby oil.


Twisting and cracking chestnuts makes them bleed and causes pain.You can cause bleeding by pulling off a dried chestnut.

Chestnuts after grooming

It is recommended that show horses have their chestnuts well groomed so that they look neat and tidy.Taking the time to prepare your horse is crucial.Peel or trim the chestnuts when grooming your horse.

You can use your hands or fingernails to peel your horse's chestnuts.Soften them with water, baby oil, or moisturizer first.

Once you're done, use petroleum jelly to enhance your horse's legs.By regularly applying petroleum jelly to the chestnut tissue, you can keep it soft and manageable.

Chestnuts will bleed if the dry layer is removed from their base.In some horses, the chestnuts get hard and unsightly over time; in this situation, using nippers to clip the chestnuts is an option that won't hurt your horse.


If you cut your horse's legs too deeply or within a few inches of the skin when you use a razor or blade to remove them altogether, your horse could suffer a lot of pain.

It would be best to talk to my farrier if you are not experienced with trimming chestnuts.When shoeing horses, farriers usually clean up the chestnuts.

The growth or size of your horse's chestnuts can indicate poor health, such as laminitis.Horses suffering from laminitis experience pain, including severe discomfort for the owners as well.

An individual horse may experience laminitis if it is a recurrent inflammatory condition of the tissue bindings.

The following steps can be taken to maintain the horse's chestnuts:

Both chestnuts and ergots can be handled with just your hands without much pain.It is not necessary to peel them off entirely, but some horse owners do it for horse shows.

Interesting chestnut facts


A few horse breeds, including the last untrained "wild horse," the Przewalski, don't have chestnuts on their legs:

Should you cut off or trim your horses’ chestnuts?

Chestnuts on your horses should really be left alone.However, if they look unsightly and you want to trim them, you can.Be careful not to cut them too deeply or use your fingernails to peel them.