Horse Hoof Care

Feb 1, 2022 | Blog

Preventing horse hoof abscesses

Any horse owner will agree, the most frustrating and common hoof ailment is an abscess.

These often appear overnight with the horse seeming perfectly fine one day and the next severely lame. These can be extremely painful and often mistaken for other issues in the fetlock, joints, or muscle. The good news is they can usually be resolved easily and quickly with proper veterinary treatment.

Proper diagnoses is required which is easily done by a vet. For larger stable yards or horses prone to abscesses, it may be worth investing in a set of hoof testers. Your vet or farrier can train to you use a pair of hoof testers which are used to apply pressure to the hoof and sole to diagnose and pinpoint an abscess location.2 Only a qualified veterinarian or farrier should attempt to drain and treat the hoof, the home hoof tester should only serve to provide a quicker diagnosis.

Often, the abscesses are difficult to find if in the hoof for drainage, resulting in stable rest until the medication has done its job by drawing the abscess out.

Two types of hoof abscesses

A sole abscess is usually the result of a nail or other sharp or hard object causing a puncture wound or a bruise in the sole. These abscesses are common and normally happen at the sole surface.2

A hoof wall abscess is caused by small stones, gravel or other foreign objects that enter the white line area, through hoof cracks, a crumbling hoof wall or old nail holes and cause an infection in the hoof wall. This sort of abscess is usually referred to as “gravels” or gravelling”. The infection will often break out in the coronary band and if luck is on your side, the foreign object will be pushed out with the abscess fluid.3

Tips to help prevent hoof abscesses

Avoid a wet, dirty environment.

Clean the horse’s stables daily and remove manure from paddocks. If the shavings in the stable are wet or damp, replace with a dry fresh load. If your horse is prone to abscesses, keep him/her in the stable when it’s raining until the paddock is dry.

Practice good hoof maintenance3

  • Clean hooves daily and remove any foreign objects around the frog.
  • Apply a hoof hardener to prevent the hoof wall from allowing too much moisture in the rainy season.
  • Apply a hoof conditioner and disinfectant all year round to kill any bacteria and regulate the moisture balance. Hooves that are too dry are prone to cracking and could damage healthy tissue.
  • Ensure the farrier visits regularly to trim your horse’s hooves and shoe if necessary. This should be done every 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Check that there are never any nails, metal pieces or other sharp objects lying around that could cause injury.
  • Ensure your horse is a good weight with good body condition. Extra weight places stress on the hoof wall, weakening it and thus increasing the chances of foreign matter entering and developing an infection.

The importance of good immunity in preventing hoof abscesses

While abscesses in the hoof could be caused by various factors, nutrition and immunity can also play a part. Ensure you are feeding good quality hay; the horse always has access to clean water and work with your veterinarian to correct any nutrient deficiencies which might stem from the diet. Correcting a previously poor diet can help to gradually improve hoof health.1

Good nutrition is important for the horse’s immunity too. A strong immune system will help reduce the risk of severe infection as well as prevent any secondary infections from occurring. Equi-Strath is a fantastic immune system enhancer and optimizer. The product is scientifically proven to enhance the body’s natural ability to not only fight off infection, but also in promoting a quicker immune response in the case that something does go wrong and dramatically reducing recovery time.

This article serves to outline common hoof abscesses as well as suggest ways to prevent these stubborn occurrences. If your horse is suffering from severe, recurring infections which could cause long term lameness and other issues, it would be best to consult a qualified farrier and veterinarian to find the root cause.

References

  1. Extension.umn.edu. 2022. Caring for your horse’s hooves. [online] Available at: <https://extension.umn.edu/horse-health/caring-your-horses-hooves> [Accessed 28 January 2022].
  2. US Equestrian. 2022. Hoof Abscesses: Tips for Treatment and Prevention. [online] Available at: <https://www.usef.org/media/equestrian-weekly/hoof-abscesses-tips-for-treatment-prevention> [Accessed 28 January 2022].
  3. Life Data® Blog. 2022. Recurring Hoof Abscesses and Their Relationship to Hoof Quality. [online] Available at: <https://lifedatalabs.com/blog/2018/06/07/the-relationship-between-hoof-quality-and-recurring-hoof-abscesses/> [Accessed 28 January 2022].