Help! My horse has an Abscess!

by Yvonne Welz ©2006

Your horse has just gone lame in one foot. He’s been barefoot for just a short time, and you have a hunch this is one of those pesky abscesses that your hoofcare professional already warned you about. But what can you do to help your poor horse?

Note: Please consult with your veterinarian any time your horse is severely lame, or lame for an extended period of time. A horse that is 3-legged lame is usually just abscessing in one foot, but there is also the possibility of a fracture, puncture, or other severe problem. Your veterinarian should always be part of your horse's hoof care program, and should be working cooperatively with your hoofcare professional. Please consult with your veterinarian about any products, including herbal and natural ones, before you administer them to your horse.

These are some easy, natural home remedies that may help your horse:

These help to develop an abscess to resolution faster, because the heat creates more blood flow and better metabolism, which leads to quicker development. Also, the outside horn capsule becomes softer, and the pus can find its way out more easily.
Linseed Poultice
Cook linseed in boiling water to make a mash. Take hot mash (as hot as possible, but not hot enough to scald or burn), cover the abscessing hoof with mash, cover all in plastic wrap, then insert into a hoof boot. Leave it on until the mash is cool. Repeat once or twice daily.
Mash Potato Poultice
Follow instructions as per linseed above, but substitute cooked mashed potatoes (from scratch, or instant) for the linseed.
Clay Poultice
Use calcium bentonite (montmorillonite) clay mixed with water to form a thick paste, and cover the bottom of the hoof. Create a hoof shaped cut-out piece of brown paper bag to cover the bottom, and leave to dry. Repeat daily.

A homeopath can customize remedies for you that will help your horse, but there are several remedies that seem especially suited to abscessing horses, such as Hepar Sulph and Silicia. Low potencies of either (6c) will advance the development of the abscess and encourage it to be expelled, while high potencies (200c) will encourage the hoof abscess to resolve, and heal over—useful after the abscess has burst open, to speed the healing.

Apple Cider Vinegar Soaking
Soaking the hoof in apple cider vinegar and water (around 1/2 cup ACV to 1 gallon water) for long periods of time (3-6 hours or more) in soaking boots during an abscess can really help speed things along. After the abscess bursts, keep soaking in the ACV water, but cut the time back down to your normal soaking period. You can also add tea tree oil or propolis to the abscess opening, to keep it clean and disinfected.

Even though a brisk walk may be the last thing your horse wants to do right now, that is the quickest way to accelerate the abscess. Usually once they get going, the abscessing horse even starts to feel better. You can even walk in soaking boots while soaking in ACV water at the same time! Most abscesses open within a week’s time, so please consult with your hoofcare professional and veterinarian if it doesn’t resolve.

©2006 by The Horse's Hoof. All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher and/or authors. The information contained within these articles is intended for educational purposes only, and not for diagnosing or medicinally prescribing in any way. Readers are cautioned to seek expert advice from a qualified health professional before pursuing any form of treatment on their animals. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.

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