Monday, September 8, 2008

Harried horsecare part 1: Treating abscesses

So a lot of you know that Riley has a likely abscess. In the past I've done the daily 30 minute soak in epsom salts and packing the hoof with ichthamol or betadine solution and sugar. I was spending at least an hour a day, and Riley's first abscess lasted about a week before it broke out the coronary band. I thought about buying Old Mac boots but they are very expensive and his foot may grow out of it. I don't really like the idea of a 24/7 poultice anyway. Whatever packing I manage to keep on him needs to come off for turnout, and I don't like to ask the workers to wield scissors around my wiggly and sometimes obnoxious horse.

An in-stall hoof poultice
As of today, I have a solution that works for me. It's a little slapdash, but I thought I'd share it. Try it at your own risk -- let me know if it works for you!


  • Ichthamal jar (you'll need a generous amount)
  • Small amount of vet wrap or strips of duct tape
  • Small transparent plastic bag, grocery size or smaller (ideally it should be the size used for Hallmark cards
  • Sandwich bag or spatula (optional)
  • Scissors
How to poultice
  1. With your horse tied safely in his stall, assemble the items needed and clean the sole of the affected hoof.
  2. Take the transparent grocery bag. and turn it inside out over your hand.
  3. Using your fingers or a spatula, scoop out a generous amount of icthamol and spread it into the hand covered with the bag--about the size of a hoof, the thickness you would spread peanut butter.
  4. Pick up the hoof (wipe free of shavings/straw if necessary) and place the icthamol bag over the hoof, centering the icthamol over the sole.
  5. Press the icthamol into the sole and spread so all parts of the sole are covered. The ichthamol and bag should be squished hard to adhere firmly inside the cup of the hoof.
  6. Put the hoof down.
  7. Use scissors to cut the bag down to the fetlock area or coronary area (your preference).
  8. Holding the bag material fairly taut, Wrap the vetwrap or duct tape strips over the bag and around the fetlock.
  9. Cut off any excess bag above the wrap.
When I tried this with my stallbound shoeless 2 year old, the grocery bag didn't tear and was on securely for four hours (I left after that, so I don't know how long it stayed on). I used vetwrap, and was able to tell the barn workers to just pull the wrap off before turnout. The key is getting the bag and icthamol to really stick up in the hoof. Even if the bag tears around the edge of the hoof, the plastic will keep the goop stuck where it belongs. If the goop is really firmly adhered to the inside of the hoof you could probably just cut the bag away around the hoof. Things to watch:
  • I only tried this with a horse bedded on straw.
  • Some horses might be afraid of the bag.
  • If you haven't worked with icthamol, it's messy. With this method the stickiness works to your advantage.
  • It obviously won't last outside the stall very long. It can easily be pulled off and if no one attends to it the bag will slough off by itself.

These bags are thin and weightless -- they keep the goop inside the hoof, protected from straw (not so sure about shavings). So far, aside from being a time-limited poultice compared to a boot, there are no down-sides.

UPDATE: Riley is having x-rays this afternoon (9/8/08). Think good thoughts!


  1. I am sending good thoughts for your boy.
    One thing that is very useful for treating foot problems is a bag of disposable diapers, get the very cheapest ones ,you will find that they fit around the hoof really well and the sticky tabs help to hold it in place until you can bandage. Keep posting ,very interesting topics

  2. This is an excellent idea. Best wishes on the x-ray and do let us know.


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