When an abscess strikes, correct poulticing is vital for a quick recovery. Alan Davies, Carl Hester’s head groom, explains how to protect poorly hooves.

Foot abscesses are common and occur when bacteria enters the hoof and causes infection. If the abscess isn’t likely to erupt by itself, your vet or farrier will make a small incision to allow the infection to escape. Once that has been done, you can poultice the foot. This will help to draw out infection and keep the area clean to prevent further reinfection.

Poultice with confidence

  1. Ensure the hoof is clean and dry, both on the outside and underneath.
  2. Cut a piece of poultice material to the size of the affected area. If you’re using a wet poultice, soak it in clean, boiled water that’s been allowed to cool.
  3. Squeeze out the excess fluid and apply the material to the hoof, making sure the plastic layer is facing outwards. Push the poultice into the affected area.
  4. Wrap a layer of soft padding over the top of the poultice and around the foot. Pay attention to cushioning soft tissue areas like the heel bulbs and coronary band.
  5. Next, I like to wrap a piece of used paper feed bag around the entire hoof. It’s been cut to size and the idea is it helps prevent everything getting dirty and wet. It’s also easier for the next layer to stick to.
  6. Now apply a self-sticking bandage over the top to hold the dressing on. You don’t want it too tight as this can cause pressure over the soft tissues, but it doesn’t want to be so loose that it falls off.
  7. Carrying on wrapping, ensuring you get good coverage under the sides of the hoof to hold the poultice in place. Some people like to cover the whole underside of the hoof, which is fine too.
  8. Now stretch duct tape over the top to create a waterproof layer. Cover the hoof in full – the entire bottom and all the way up to the top. You can also use a poultice boot, but be careful it doesn’t rub.
  9. Make sure that the duct tape is firmly stuck down. If you have any concerns about pressure on your horse’s pastern, slightly snip the cohesive bandage layer at the front, above the coronet band.
  10. Change the poultice at least once a day, or more if there’s a lot of pus coming out. By using the paper bag layer, with an inch or two sticking out the top, it makes the whole thing easier to peel off.

Poulticing: dos and don’ts

  • Don’t poultice more of the foot than you have to, especially if you are wet poulticing, as the hoof can become waterlogged, which weakens the horn.
  • Only use a wet poultice for two to three days at a time, then switch to a dry poultice or dressing to keep the area clean.
  • Watch out for any swelling coming up the pastern, as this can be a sign that the infection is going up the leg. If this happens, call your vet immediately.

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