From Endurance to Dressage
How to Pack an Abscess
Hopefully your horse will never have another one. For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of owning a horse with a painful pimple in his hoof, here's one way to help him through it.
First up, invest in a boatload of duct tape. Yes, the guy in the paint department will look at you strangely. At least the guy at Home Depot did as I carted an armload of the gray stuff back to the register. If I had bought zip ties at the same time, he no doubt would have called in the FBI. The thing is, if you buy only one roll, you're asking for a lengthy abscess. If you purchase way more than you'll ever need, your horse will never abscess again.
You probably have most of this stuff already, but if you don't, it's all good bandaging material to have on hand as it can be used for a lot of different types of bandaging jobs. I keep a good supply of this stuff on hand at all times, especially the Vetwrap.
If the abscess is still stuck somewhere in the hoof, you'll need some kind of poultice like Numotizine or Ichthammol to draw out the abscess. Once it's blown, the hole that it creates can lead directly into the hoof, so you'll need to clean and protect it until the tissue has epithelized. This bandage is for after the abscess has blown. If the abscess hasn't blown substitute the flushing and gauze pads with Numotizine.
The first step is to clean the entire hoof with water and a Betadine solution. If the hole is at the coronary band, you probably won't be able to irrigate it, but if it's in the hoof itself, it's important to flush it out so that a new piece of foreign material doesn't get stuck as the tissue is trying to epthelize.
To irrigate the hole, create a dilution of Betadine with water. The percentage of water to Betadine doesn't really matter. Just get it looking like tea, and squirt it in. I do at least three full syringes. You want to make sure to flush until nothing but your solution comes out. The first day I did this, the solution actually oozed out from a small "blow out" hole in Speedy's heel bulb, just above the large drainage hole. By the second wrapping, that hole had closed up.
Once the abscess's drainage hole has been thoroughly flushed of foreign material and any pus, pack the hoof with gauze pads that have been soaked in Betadine. The Betadine serves as an antiseptic and provides antibacterial activity. It will also "dry out" the abscess.
Once the gauze pads are in place, wrap the entire hoof with some kind of cotton padding. I like the Webril cotton rolls because they have a waffle texture which gives more cushion than just brown gauze rolls might. It's also easier to handle than cotton sheets used for large bandages. But really, use whatever you have on hand.
The next step is to wrap the entire hoof in Vetwrap. The Vetwrap's job is to keep the bandaging material firmly in place. For some bandaging jobs there's a risk of getting the Vetwrap too tight or even too loose if it's a pressure bandage. For covering the hoof, just wrap it without worrying. You want it tight enough to keep it from slipping around, so wrap with sure, firm, layers.
The last step is to protect the bandage from mud and dirt. If you have a boot, you can use that instead of duct tape. To make the job a bit easier, peel off 3 - 5 strips of duct tape that are about 10 inches in length. I stuck mine to the bucket I was using to hold all of my materials. Once you have your tape strips ready to go, start laying them from toe to heel to create the bottom of the wrap. From there, keep applying layers around the hoof and across the bottom until every bit of Vetwrap is covered. Press it all tightly, and you're done!
For all bandaging jobs, I like to rewrap every other day. If you're interested in doing a pressure bandage, check out this post or this one.
And I guess a thank you goes out to Speedy G for providing this learning opportunity. I appreciate the effort, dude, but I think I've got the bandaging thing down. No more experience needed!
12/22/2018 09:34:08 am
Thank you, this is very helpful. Great photos.
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
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CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
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