How to prevent hoof abscesses

Here, equine vet Lucinda Ticehurst explains how to reduce the risk of your horse developing a foot abscess. 

Drying the whole hoof is essential to prevent bacteria taking hold

Drying the whole hoof is essential to prevent bacteria taking hold

Regular farriery is essential

Hoof abscesses can be incredibly painful and can result in severe lameness. Regular farriery for shod and unshod horses is essential. The farrier will remove unhealthy hoof tissue and any horn that holds mud in a defect.

Damaged hoof wall, especially associated with the white line, can result in a microscopic entry point for bacteria.

Loose and poor fitting shoes are predisposing factors too. Remedial farriery and pads fitted over the sole of the hoof may be required in a horse with weak soles or low heels.

Easy ways to look after his hooves

Condition his feet 

Cleaning and drying (in wet conditions) of the whole hoof is essential. Antibacterial solutions (for example dilute iodine or eucalyptus oil with iodoform crystals) can be used to kill off the bacteria and be applied to any defects, soft soles, nail holes or deep heel clefts.

Hoof oil and creams can also be used to aid hoof quality and should be used to prevent the hoof becoming brittle in very dry conditions. If shoeing is required very frequently, a hoof supplement containing biotin is advised to aid hoof growth so there are fewer nail holes weakening the hoof wall structure.

Everything your horse stands on affects their feet. Abrasive surfaces should be avoided, as well as soiled bedding, waterlogged areas and large stones, so you may need to change your management depending on the weather and your horse’s hoof quality.