Hoof Abscess

Everyone has an opinion on how to treat horses for hoof abscesses. The old cowboys and lifetime horse fanatics swear by soaking. Today’s contemporary farriers suggest that soaking may not be the best idea, as it softens the hoof to the point of displacing the coffin bone and causing navicular disease. But whatever stance you take on the issue, the bottom line is your horse is lame and that infection must come out.

An abscess occurs when a foreign object, commonly a nail, a rock, or any number of other sharp object, punctures either the soft tissue of the frog or the hard tissue of the hoof’s sole. 


The foreign object may remain in the hoof, itself becoming the source of infection, or it may simply create an opening through which dirt and other matter are allowed into the hoof. Often, the initial puncture wound closes, locking the infection inside. The horse’s body responds by attacking and attempting to get rid of the infection. It creates a pocket of puss around the foreign matter and begins to move it. It will choose the easiest escape route, the path of least resistance, sometimes traveling downward and out the Picture20way it came in, and sometimes traveling upward. In many horses, especially performance horses whose jobs involve severe concussion to the hoof, the
abscess will find its way out at the coronet band, creating a small pinhole through which to drain. The pain is caused when the migrating pus pocket comes in contact with nerves. 

If left untreated, you could end up with a chronically lame horse. Action must be taken immediately.  It is when these abscesses can’t find a way out that we get into trouble. We come out to find our favorite riding horse standing on three legs, or worse, down entirely and unable to bear weight on the affected foot. For these extreme cases, a professional must be called immediately. For more moderate cases, you may be able to relieve the pressure with a little dedication and commitment.

Picture21Soaking your horses hoof in a mixture of Epsom Salt and water can possibly help with the Abscess. 

Using a paste made with Sugar and Bedadine and wrapping your hoof in a diaper is also another known remedy.

Street nail or a sharp object penetrating the sole

  • Call your Vet Immediately!
  • LEAVE nail in place!

    • Bend tip so it does not go in further

  • Do not attempt to walk horse



A Street Nail or Sharp Object can damage many sensitive structures

  • Navicular Bursa
  • Coffin Joint
  • Deep digital Flexor Tendon
  • Tendon Sheath
  • Coffin Bone


What the Vet Can DoPicture22

  • Radiographs

    • With nail in place
    • Contrast study

  • Evaluate joint integrity

    • Infuse with saline to look for communication

  • Antibiotics

    • Systemic and local (regional limb perfusion)

  • May need referral to a surgical facility


Frumveller, Kim.Wyatt.4-9-Apr-2014

  • January 2020
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