Chapter Six

Fitting Hoof Boots

Chapter Seven

Booting Different Sized Horses

Chapter Eight

Using Hoof Boots for Rehabilitation

Hoof boots for abscesses

Hoof abscesses occur when bacteria invade a horse’s hoof; the abscess may erupt on its own, either from the sole of the hoof, or at the coronary band.

Besides showing varying degrees of lameness, a horse with an abscess may have lower leg swelling or an increased digital pulse. To quote American vet Brian W. Fitzgerald, hoof abscesses occur when bacteria get trapped between the sensitive laminae (the tissue layer that bonds the hoof capsule to the coffin bone) and the hoof wall or sole. The bacteria create pus, which builds up and creates pressure behind the hoof wall or under the sole. This pressure can be become extremely painful.

Moisture in the environment can soften regions of the foot and make it easier for bacteria to get trapped inside. Extremely dry conditions can cause brittle, cracked feet. The abscess-causing bacteria enter the foot through hoof cracks, by travelling up the white line, through penetrating wounds to the foot. Deep bruising might also trigger abscesses.

While a hoof abscess generally takes several days to develop, most horses don't show any clinical signs until the pressure becomes so great that severe lameness is evident. Often this lameness develops overnight. Changes in blood flow to the hoof cause it to throb, and this can be detected as a more evident pulse in the affected lower limb. Some hoof abscesses can cause varying degrees of swelling in the horse’s lower limbs, but the majority will not.

Keeping the area clean

If you are poulticing the area to draw out the bacterial matter, you will need to keep the area clean until it has had a chance to dry and harden. Hoof boots can be helpful in this situation but keep in mind they are not designed to keep out deep mud so some restrictions may be necessary. A good example is the EasyCare Soaker Boots , which allow you to utilise liquid solutions to help clean and draw the site of infection whilst supervised. Easycare also has a medical therapy boot, the easyboot rx, which is a more versatile boot, as it allows you to wrap and treat the hoof and still turn the horse out in a round pen or yard. The transition is one step up again and can also be used for full turnout, but keeping in mind to keep mud to a minimum to help prevent reinfection. The rx comes fitted with a 6mm comfort pad to provide immediate relief and additional sole support, the transition has a sole similar to a modern trainer so is slightly softer inside than most other boots and can also accept the comfort pad system. Both are ideal for poulticing and helping to keep the worst of the dirt away from the horse foot. For greater protection from mud, using a plastic bag over the poultice before booting can really help to keep mud out if required. Remember: You need to treat hooves as a pair (fronts or hinds) so if one hoof is booted, you need to either boot the other hoof too (or have a metal shoe still in place).

You may find that a non medicinal, generic hoof boot for barefoot horses that sits below the coronet hairline would safely and comfortably hold an abscess dressing in place, however there would be concerns regarding rubbing - but if you and the horse’s vet feel that there’s a hoof boot designed for barefoot horses which would help keep the site of infection comfortable and clean, then by all means do consider using a conventional hoof boot if it will help the horse’s recovery.

Excerpts sourced here from EasyCare, who in turn sourced an article by Brian W. Fitzgerald, DVM from the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ website.