The old saying, “No hoof, no horse” is perhaps the only opinion that all equestrians can agree on. When your horse comes down with a hoof injury, it’s easy to feel helpless. Understanding how to care for five of the most common horse hoof injuries can empower you to take action.
Please note, you should always reach out to your vet or farrier before trying any home treatments for horse hoof issues. This blog is only meant as a supplement to help you prepare for future emergency situations.
You rode your horse just yesterday and he was perfectly sound. Today, he’s struggling to walk from the pasture to his stall. A horse hoof abscess can cause your horse to go from sound one day to three-legged lame the next. A very common hoof injury, abscesses are the cause of a lot of worry and stress for equestrians across the United States.
An abscess is a build-up of pus and infection within the hoof. The infection becomes very painful and is only resolved when it bursts out from the hoof wall, typically at either the coronary band or through the sole.
This painful hoof condition can be caused by a multitude of factors. For example, they can occur when bacteria enters the hoof through a crack from a nail or via a hoof defect like a wall crack. It then works its way deeper into the hoof where it festers.
Abscesses can be very scary. Some horses won’t even put weight on the leg that is affected. If your horse suddenly goes significantly lame, start by calling your vet to confirm that they are suffering from an abscess.
While your vet will guide you on how to care for an abscess, standard protocol includes soaking the hoof in warm water and Epsom salt, wrapping the hoof, and sometimes having the farrier dig out the abscess tract. Unfortunately, some horses don’t appreciate having their hooves soaked. Eliminate spilled buckets and a wet aisle with the EasyCare EasyBoot Ultimate Remedy soaking boots. These tall waterproof boots are pulled up over your horse’s hooves and filled with the solution of your choice for easy, mess-free soaking.
When it comes to wrapping a horse hoof, there are a few products that can make your life easier. If your horse is going to be staying in a stall, the EquiFit Pack-n-Stick Hooftape can cut your wrapping time in half. These circular disks of durable sticky tape eliminate the need to cut strips and strips of duct tape. Instead, you just stick one piece of hoof tape to the bottom of the hoof and smooth it up the sides of the hoof wall.
A stone bruise occurs when your horse stomps on a rock or other firm object and bruises the sole of their foot. Bruises can appear as purple-ish or redd-ish marks. Often by the time the bruise is visible on the sole, weeks or even months have passed since the trauma occurred.
Just like bruises in people, stone bruises can cause your horse to become short-strided or lame. In order to aid your horse’s recovery, you’ll need to protect the hoof until the bruise is resolved. While you should always contact your vet or farrier when your horse is lame, hoof boots can be an essential part of your stone bruise treatment plan. The Cavallo Trek Boot is durable enough to handle pasture turnout and protect your horse’s foot.
If your horse needs even more cushion and pain relief, the EquiFit Hoof Savers can be added to the boot or wrapped onto the hoof. These hoof-shaped pads are constructed from EVA foam to provide comfort and relief. Plus, the closed cell foam will not absorb any medication.
Hoof Wall Crack
Cracks can appear in a horse hoof for a variety of reasons. Most of the time, small exterior hoof cracks are harmless and cause no functional problems. However, occasionally hoof wall defects can become serious and cause significant lameness. The trick to caring for these horse hoof wall cracks is knowing when to act and when to let them grow out with minor attention. For this reason, it’s important to work closely with your farrier and veterinarian.
Hoof cracks near the sole of the hoof usually form due to some sort of pressure or trauma. If you notice small cracks around the upper exterior of the hoof, these may be from a recurring cycle of wet and dry, and will probably resolve with the help of a hoof dressing, like Hooflex Liquid Conditioner.
Large vertical hoof cracks that penetrate deep into the hoof, start at the coronet band, and extend down are much more serious. Serious hoof cracks like these often form due to conformational faults or a lapse in farrier care. For example, according to Equus Magazine, a horse with long toes and underrun heels is more likely to develop quarter cracks.
Deep and chronic horse hoof cracks are often a sign of weak or unhealthy hooves. Working closely with your farrier and adding a hoof supplement, like Farrier’s Formula Double Strength, are good ways to promote the growth of stronger hooves.
Are your horse’s hooves extra smelly lately? They could be suffering from thrush. Thrush occurs when anaerobic bacteria and fungi begin to eat away at, and eventually destroy, your horse’s frog. This horse hoof condition is extremely common, but it shouldn’t be underestimated or left untreated. If thrush is allowed to spread into the underlying sensitive structures of the hoof, it can cause temporary or even permanent lameness.
Luckily, thrush is distinctive and easy to recognize. If your horse has thrush, you’ll notice a strong smell that is similar to a compost heap. You may also see a black powdery substance around the area of infection.
Thrush thrives in dark and damp conditions, like muddy pastures. Ensuring that your horse has a dry place to stand and that their stall is cleaned daily are both great ways to prevent a thrush infection.
Once your horse does have a thrush infection, an antifungal topical treatment is necessary to resolve the issue. While a large variety of thrush treatments are available over the counter, look for one that is high-quality and treats a variety of bacteria.
For example, the Farrier’s Finish Hoof Disinfectant and Conditioner works against a broad spectrum of bacterial and fungal infections. This way, you can use a treatment that is most likely to treat your horse’s thrush, without having to waste money purchasing a range of products.
White Line Disease
Have you noticed a new gap in your horse’s white line? White Line Disease is a mixed fungal and bacterial infection. This nasty mix of germs eats away at the keratin of your horse’s hoof, creating a gap in the white line of the hoof, which gives this disease its name.
On x-ray, advanced white line disease will appear as a cavity in between the sensitive tissues of the horse hoof and the outer hoof wall. If it is allowed to become advanced, it can weaken the constitution of the hoof to the point where the coffin bone can actually rotate, causing lameness, and the horse can lose sole depth.
Treatment of white line disease is actually pretty invasive and requires the help of a knowledgeable farrier and veterinarian. Your farrier may use a knife to resect the hoof wall and debride the infection as necessary. This cleans out the infection and exposes the bacteria to air to stop it from spreading. Your job will be to keep the foot dry and clean.
Like most horse hoof issues, white line disease is easier to prevent than treat. You can prevent harmful bacteria from making your horse’s hoof their home with the help of a packable hoof clay. For example, Life Data Hoof Clay is an antimicrobial clay that easily packs into the nooks and crannies where bacteria may enter a horse hoof. This includes hoof defects, old nail holes and cracks.
Breeches.com: For All Your Horse Hoof Care Needs
Whether you’re searching for products to treat an active horse hoof issue or you’re shopping for preventative supplies, you can find what you’re looking for on Breeches.com. Our specially curated selection of hoof care products were hand selected for their quality and effectiveness. With reputable and time-tested brands like Life Data Labs, EquiFit, and Cavallo, we’re here to help you keep your horse healthy.
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Click here to learn more about horse hoof care basics.