Abscesses, bruises and bad cases of thrush have one big thing in common: They’re frustrating to deal with. In addition, they take up a lot of your time — not to mention the lack of riding time.
Keeping the injured areas clean is difficult at best for the average horse owner, and the pain from these ailments often responds poorly.
You’ll want to get your farrier, and maybe your veterinarian, involved first. The frogs must be carefully trimmed and the excess sole removed to see what’s going on underneath. When the problem area is found, your farrier will pare out the infected/damaged tissue. If the problem is too deep for the farrier, your veterinarian may need to cut into the hoof more deeply or X-ray the foot.
Once you’ve pinpointed and pared out the problem area, you need to immediately protect it from dirt and manure contamination.
The tried-and-true method to do this is by using a hoof pack. You can make a hoof pack by wrapping cotton padding around the hoof itself and covering that with a self-adhering bandage, like Vetrap. You then wrap multiple layers of duct tape over the pack, which helps protect the pack from moisture and dirt and will help keep it from wearing through as quickly. This pack may have to be done daily.
However, we’ve found constantly re-doing this pack can become a drag. Not only is it time-consuming, but it can get expensive if you’re doing it for a week or two at a time, as the cotton, elastic wrap and duct tape will have to be fresh each time.
We think it’s tough to beat the ease and effectiveness of a hoof boot to keep a hoof clean and dry, and we think every barn should stock at least one that can fit each horse or know where you can buy one quickly if needed. If you just need a boot to keep on hand for the odd emergency, we suggest you consider the Davis Manufacturing boots, which are reasonably priced and work well for hoof packs (www.davismanufacturing.com, 920-346-5815).
Soaks And Poultices
Soaking and poulticing take time but are necessary for rapid resolution and pain control. Remove the pack, then wash the hoof with warm soapy water and a brush before soaking it, as dirt/manure will contaminate the water and work its way into the area you want to keep clean.
Use warm water with a tablespoon of Epsom salts per quart for added drawing and soothing effects. Soaks also stimulate circulation and soften the tissues so that any infection or fluid can break through easier. Soak the hoof for 20 minutes at least once or twice daily.
Poulticing between soaks extends the effects. A layer of heavy plastic wrap around the poultice will keep it warm and moist. Place the poultice over the sole and coronary band. Use hot water or a microwave to warm the poultice for added comfort and effectiveness. If you’re mixing the poultice from a powder, adding DMSO also generates a good bit of heat, and Epsom salts also can be added for extra drawing.
The poultice can be covered with your hoof boot or hoof pack to keep it in place until the next day when you remove it all to soak the foot again.
Continue this cycle until you’re sure all of the dead and infected material has been removed from the foot, whether from your soaks and poultices or from the material being completely pared away. The next step is dealing with exit sites and holes that need protection until the sole can grow back completely.
Openings on the coronary band should be treated like an open wound elsewhere on the body. Gently cleanse the area daily to keep dried material from clogging the opening. You can leave the area open, cover it with a light layer of wound dressing, or cover it with gauze held gently in place with self-adhering elastic wrap.
Be careful not to over-tighten the wrap over the coronary band area. Avoid heavy creams/ointments and powders, which will clog the opening and drainage.
Open and/or pared-out areas on the sole need to be protected from pressure and contamination until sufficient sole can regrow. When all the layers of the sole have been removed to the point that bleeding occurs, antibacterial action is also desirable.
Many different hoof/wound products are antibacterial — including ingredients like iodine, methylene blue, copper sulfate — plus the old-favorite “sugardyne,” a mixture of iodine and plain sugar. The iodine is astringent and antibacterial, while the sugar both protects open tissues and has a drawing effect.
A new twist on sugardyne is substitution of Equi-Lite’s The Sauce for the iodine. The Sauce is a blend of Sore No-More and iodine, which adds a dimension of significant pain relief to the other effects (www.equilite.com 800/942-5483; $10.95 for 8 oz.).
We also recommend the use of Tuf-Foot, a non-drying antiseptic liquid blend of herbal extracts and balsam. It is an extremely effective analgesic and encourages regrowth of sole quite quickly (www.tuffoot.com 888/883-3668 $12.95/8 oz.).
If the area is still actively draining and you don’t want sole regrowth sealing it over too quickly, try soaking cotton with either Animal Legends Tea Tree ADE spray (www.animallegends.com 800/399-7387 $9.95/8 oz.) or Schreiner’s Herbal Solution (www.schreiners.com 800/223-4325 $11.95/8.5 oz.). Both of these products also provide some pain relief in addition to the their antimicrobial properties. Gentle benzalkonium-based wound sprays can also be used, but they lack the anesthetic effects.
Finally, a deeply pared-out area may be best protected by a flat pad, which is applied between the hoof and the shoe by your farrier. Discuss this option with your farrier.