We’ve all been there – you’re getting ready for a hack and notice your horse isn’t putting even weight on their hooves. You have a feel of their legs and hoofs and, OUCH – it’s an abscess. An abscess in your horse’s hoof can be especially painful, but don’t worry, it’s easy to treat at home.
Knowing how to treat the abscess by wrapping the hoof in a poultice is an essential hack for every equestrian. Our step-by-step guide teaches you how to draw out the infection and promote healing.
What is a poultice?
A poultice is a type of dressing that is put onto a horse’s hoof. It is designed to draw out an abscess and usually comes in the shape of a hoof, though some poultices can be cut to size. It’s best to use a wet poultice for two/three days before switching to a dry one to keep the area clean. Depending on the severity of the abscess, this should be kept on for a minimum of three days. You can always ask a vet or farrier if there are no signs of improvement after three days.
Why you should poultice your horse’s hoof:
If your horse seems lame, uncomfortable on its hoofs or has one foot warmer than the other, it could mean they have an abscess. This happens when bacteria gets into the hoof and causes a build-up of pus, creating pressure on the foot. This infection can be excruciating, and if it isn’t dealt with in the right way, it can cause further infections. A poultice draws out the infection while keeping dirt and bacteria away from the hoof.
How to spot an abscess:
Abscesses tend to occur in wet weather, when tiny cracks form in the hoof wall and allow bacteria into the hoof. As moisture and dirt get into the hoof, this can cause an infection. infected hoof may also be warmer than the non-infected hoof due to swelling. It can be heart breaking when you realise your horse is in pain, but by following these simple steps your friend will be back to their normal self in no time.
How to apply a poultice:
- Hoof poultice
- Heavy-duty tape
- Clean, warm water and a plastic container
- Vet Wrap
- Farrier’s knife
- Clean and dry the hoof before you start to make sure you’ve washed away dirt/bacteria. If you’re not using a shaped poultice, cut the poultice material to the size of the affected area. Take care not to poultice more of your horse’s hoof than you need to.
- If you feel comfortable doing so, take a farrier’s knife and make a small hole in the affected area to allow the pus to escape. The affected area will the darker and warmer than the rest of the hoof. If you prefer not to do this yourself, you can ask a farrier to help or skip this step – the poultice will draw out the infection either way.
- If you’re using a wet poultice, take a bowl of clean pre-boiled water that has been cooled enough to handle it. Place the poultice in the water and then squeeze out the excess.
- Apply the poultice to the foot before wrapping a soft tissue/padding layer to the outside. This layer cushions and foot and should easily stick to the wet dressing.
- Cover the padding with Vet Wrap or Sealtex to hold everything in place. Be careful with your pressure – having the bandage too tight can cause compression in the hoof, but too loose and the bandage will fall off. It’s a careful balance, but getting it right will help your horse feel more comfortable and keep bacteria out of the affected hoof.
- Change the poultice every 8-48 hours, depending on the severity of the infection. We recommend using a wet poultice for the first couple of days before switching to the dry poultice. If you do not see any improvement in 3 days, contact your vet.
Top tip: Look out for any swelling coming up the pastern as this can be a sign that the infection is going up the leg. Contact your vet immediately if this starts to happen.
How to avoid infections in the future:
Now you’ve successfully poultice your horse, it’s all about preventing the issue from happening again. Through the summer months, try to keep your horse’s hoofs in good condition by keeping their environment clean and dry. Book regular visits with your farrier to remove unhealthy hoof tissue and keep hoofs clean on a day-to-day basis with a Wahl Hoof Pick at home. We also advise using Gold Label Hoof Hardener before extreme weather changes to stop cracks occurring in the hoof.
The bottom line? Hoof abscesses happen! The best thing you can do for your horse is be prepared for it. Keep a poultice in your tack and keep an eye out for any signs of distress in your horse. Ensure their environment is kept clean and dry, and always consult a farrier or vet if you have concerns.