What would you think if your horse goes from completely fine to completely 3-legged overnight? Would you panic? Read on…
A hoof abscess occurs when a point of entry (like a stone bruise, etc) gets infected and fills with puss. The pressure builds inside the hoof and the horse ultimately goes lame. Though incredibly painful for the horse, this issue is usually extremely minor and easily treated… it just takes love and LOTS of patience! (from you and your horse!)
Sooo… back to your 3-legged horse. If there’s no obvious wound or swelling anywhere, yet he refuses to put weight on his foot or walks on his toe – 99% of the time, it’s an abscess. Feel near the coronet band. Is it hot?
Yes? It’s most likely an abscess. You can wait a day or 2 and see if it pops on it’s own -OR- you can just call your vet/farrier. Most often, they can cut it out and relieve the pressure (and pain for the horse) in minutes. Then it’s YOUR turn… :)
I’ve spent more time wrapping horse hooves than i’d care to think about… but – you gotta do what you gotta do!
Some abscesses aren’t that bad, and will bust out without you even knowing they were there. Others leave your horse 3-legged and in much pain. For the latter, here’s some tried and true steps to follow…
after the pressure has been relieved, begin by soaking the foot in warm water/iodine/epsom salt for at least 10-20 minutes… you can even soak the foot prior to the abscess coming out to try to speed along the process
after the soaking – DON’T LET THE FOOT TOUCH THE GROUND! It’s clean! Your horse probably won’t cooperate. (this is where the patience comes in)
pack abscess with gauze and ichthammol ointment (black drawing salve)
finish off with the “horse abscess boot” (some people buy special “boots” like the Davis boot, but I prefer my homemade vet wrap/duck tape method. it’s nearly indestructible! …and the geldings especially love when they get to show off their pretty pink foot!)
repeat every other day until abscess has significantly healed and horse is no longer lame (about a week). allow for as much turn-out as possible. your horse will heal quicker if permitted to walk around and get the blood flow going! …and a couple of grams of bute per day will help immensely.
***a special thanks to Moosie for his willingness to share his experience with us via photos. UPDATE – he’s 100% now! :)
*****NOTE***** Some abscess are not this simple. Ask Gruezi! He’s had an abscess about a month ago that went from “simple” (following the above model) to “complicated,” i.e. it just wasn’t getting better. The infection was so severe he had to go into the hospital for a few days for further treatment. Update on Gruezi, he’s home and will be just fine!
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