This somewhat old fashioned and simple treatment of an abscess is especially effective in cases of a deep abscess in the hoof that could not be opened or drained. This form of treatment is also very handy if we have difficulty in soaking the horse’s foot. If the horse has only a mild form of abscess and he is moving about, then this type of bandaging is not practical, as the horse will lose it in relatively short time. This treatment is also unsuitable in cases where one was able to open and drain the abscess, in which case the treatment with Ichthammol is more suitable (Treatment no.1) Caution! Not suitable for an abscess associated with founder!
This treatment is best used in cases where the horse is very lame, does not want to put his foot down and does not want to move about, hence usually confined to a stall. The deep abscess is often very hard to localize, as the horse is usually only very slightly sensitive to the hoof testers, while he can hardly put any weight on the foot. It is not recommended to dig in the hoof and look for a deep abscess.
It is best if we can soak the afflicted hoof in lukewarm water (no Epsom Salt) for about half an hour before each application if possible. However, if the horse presents some difficulty, this treatment is still very effective even without the soaking, though the foot should be always rinsed off with water before each new application.
Preparing a poultice
Get about 4 to 6 quarts of bran and about ¼ cup of flax seed (linseed). Put both in a bucket, mix and soak in hot-boiling water and let stand for about one hour. Add only as much water as the bran can soak up. After about one hour the poultice should be cooled down to about the body temperature and ready to use. The flax seed plays an important role, not only in helping to soften the hoof, but it also caries some antibacterial properties.
Wrapping the hoof
Cut the corner of a nylon (not paper) feedbag as depicted in fig 1. It is better to cut it larger, as the excess can be always cut off, once on the hoof. It is best to double it (use two pieces), since the bag will more likely break through in time.
Put the bran poultice into the cutout bag as depicted in fig 2. Insert the horse’s foot in it in such way so it surrounds the entire hoof. Set the foot down and wrap a duck tape around the cut out bag at the pastern area (fig. 3). Please make sure that it is not too tight but tight enough to keep the bag on.
In most cases the foot will break through the bag in time, depending on the movement of the horse and the bedding (surface). Most of the time it should stay on at least 12 hours, which is sufficient.
The bandage should be changed at least once per day, however two times per day is better, especially during the winter when the poultice will tend to freeze after a while. The poultice should not be hot, best about the temperature of the body. The hoof should be washed thoroughly in-between the bandage changes, as the flax seed will decay quickly.
The abscess usually breaks out within three days. Once when this happens, the foot should be washed out, let dry and in the place/s where the abscess broke out (usually at the side of the heal and/or at the toe) the Reducine is applied to prevent further infections as well as premature closing of the exit (draining) wound. The Reducine will also help significantly in the regeneration of the damaged coronet band.
There are also various boots available that could be used instead of the bag. Just use your head and make sure that you know what you are treating. It is quite normal, that the horse will be most lame (sore) just before the abscess breaks out, hence he will appear worse off the day after each treatment till the abscess finally breaks out, at which point most of the pain is finally gone.
Note: If the abscess is too slow to break out and the infection begins to spread up the leg (obvious swelling) you may want to administer antibiotics like penicillin for five days. Please, consult your veterinarian if you are not sure about what you are dealing with. In some cases of the deep abscess the horses do not respond (not sensitive) to the pressure of hoof testers, something to keep in mind.