How to Treat a Hoof Abscess

Hoof abscesses can occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they pop up for what seems like no reason at all, and other times horses may step on the clip of their shoe or something sharp. The items in the first aid kit that we haven’t discussed yet will come in handy when you need to treat an abscess.
The first step in treating an abscess is determining if, in fact, it is an abscess. Your farrier should remove the shoe and test the hoof to see if there is a sensitive reaction from the horse. Hopefully, the farrier is able to find the spot and then cut a thin layer of hoof away to help drainage. If you have gotten this far, it is time to soak the foot in Epsom Salt and warm water for between ten and twenty minutes a day to soften and promote drainage. It is extremely important to not let dirt enter the wound. 

Packing the foot 

This is a crucial step in getting an abscess to heal. For packing the foot you will need the following items:

  • Duct tape
  • Vet wrap
  • Disposable Diapers
  • Epsom Salt Poultice

After soaking the foot in warm water and Epsom Salt, dry the foot and apply a layer of Epsom Salt Poultice to the entire sole. I prefer this method as the Epsom Salt poultice continues to draw out the “gunk” that is trapped in the foot. Once you have applied the poultice, secure a disposable diaper on the foot, making sure the strongest part of the diaper is on the sole. Once it is tight, you can wrap the vet wrap around the entire foot a few times, followed by the duct tape. This ensures that the diaper does not come off in the horse’s stall or in the field. This will need to be repeated each day until the abscess is healed. If the abscess is extremely stubborn, it may take several weeks for it to heal. For prolonged abscesses, the vet may need to open the wound further to speed the process along. 

Helpful Hint: Duct tape pattern. To speed up the duct taping process, it is incredibly helpful to make a pattern on the wall with duct tape and then peel it off and put it on the sole of the foot. After this, you only need duct tape to further secure it and go around the top of the hoof.                         

To boot or not to boot? 

If you are going to be duct taping for weeks on end, you may opt to use a hoof boot instead, such as the Cavallo Sport Hoof Boot. You can also opt for the Cavallo Simple Boot. This will allow you to pack the foot with poultice and a disposable diaper and simply slip on a hoof boot. In case your horse manages to take the boot off, I recommend putting a little bit of duct tape on the diaper, just for added insurance. Hopefully the next time your horse has an abscess this will prove helpful and you will be back riding quickly!

From one horse crazed human to another – Maria Holman

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