Hoof Abscess

Poor Ozymandias.

About a week ago my sweet, sweet horse developed an abscess in his front left hoof. I brought him out of his stall on a gorgeous sunny day in hopes of a nice long training session in which we could introduce a few more obstacles. He is like a sponge. Incredibly intelligent and way ahead of the normal 4 year old learning curve. As we exited the stall his limp was dramatic and he held his head low. I stopped abruptly and checked his leg for heat, swelling, anything to give away an injury. Noticing nothing wrong I continued to walk him to see if he was simply stiff. As we headed up to the cross ties his limping abated and he seemed to walk it off. However once tacked up and in the ring the pressure of the sand caused extreme discomfort for him.

My trainer immediately brought out the hoof testers and determined it was an abscess. An abscess is an infection within the hoof. Bacteria enters the hoof through a wound, bruise or simply a softening of the hoof due to rainy weather. Once infected, pressure is put on the hoof causing pain until it is eventually pushed out through a soft spot in the hoof, often the coronary band. Treatment is soaking in Epsom salts and wrapping with an Epsom salve to draw the infection out the bottom of the hoof.

First aid for an abscess. Image courtesy of GVEquine.com.

We led Ozzy back inside for soaking, which he did not enjoy. Warm water and Epsom salts are not his thing. We were forced to hold up his other front leg in order to get him to stand still and even that only lasted for about 5 minutes before he thought it wise to jump on three legs out of the water.

This is the type of bucket we used for soaking. Low, rubber feed bucket. Image courtesy of HorseChannel.com.

After soaking, my trainer taught me an interesting technique for wrapping. She is not a fan of Ichthammol which is a drawing salve that is commonly used to help draw out the abscess. She prefers an Epsom salt salve, Kaeco Epsom Salt Poultice. She cleans the dirt and debris from the entire hoof, smears a generous amount of the Epsom salt salve on the bottom of the hoof and then wraps a baby diaper on the hoof. She goes over this with VetWrap and then duct tape creating a water tight boot.

Applying the Epsom Salt Poultice.

Wrapping hoof in diaper.

Applying the duct tape boot. My trainer wrapped in VetWrap before this step.

For the next few days, Ozzy has suffered through more soaking and new wrapping as well as being stall bound. The abscess popped out of his hoof about two days ago. I have maintained the soaking in Epsom salt and wrapping to ensure the infection is completely drawn out and healed. His impatience has grown to an all time high. He was incredibly fussy this morning kicking out and rearing twice in the cross ties trying to get us to leave him alone. Only one more day then back to training.

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3 thoughts on “Hoof Abscess

  1. I disagree with this treatment based on two facts. Salt tends to dry things out. If a hoof dries out, then it shrinks thus making it harder for the abscess to exit the foot. Secondly, a diaper’s main purpose is to draw moisture into its padding therefore pulling it away from the foot. Just my two cents worth.

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