When the inevitable happens, and your horse comes in limping, we want to do whatever we can to ease their pain and help them feel better faster. Horse hoof packing products can help with hoof soreness, stone bruises, sensitive soles, drawing out hoof abscesses, and even as a preventative for foot soreness after jumping or riding on hard or rocky footing. Most hoof packing products are made from ingredients such as pine tar, epsom salts, tea tree oil, iodine, and other types of clays or poultices. These ingredients can help draw out bacteria and fungus, treat thrush, relieve pain and soreness, draw out bruising and inflammation, and balance moisture.

What is hoof packing?

Hoof packing for horses refers to applying various materials or substances to the underside of a horse's hoof, specifically in the hoof's sole and frog area. The primary purpose of hoof packing is to promote and maintain the overall health and well-being of the horse's hooves. It serves multiple functions, such as providing support and cushioning to the sole, aiding in the prevention and treatment of conditions like bruising and abscesses, and offering relief from the discomfort associated with various hoof ailments.

Hoof-packing materials can vary, including clay, silicone, or commercial hoof-packing products. The choice of packing material depends on the specific needs of the horse and the recommendations of a knowledgeable equine veterinarian or farrier. Properly applied hoof packing can contribute to the soundness and comfort of the horse, particularly in high-performance or working animals.

When should you pack your horse's hoof?

Hoof packing is great to have on hand for those unexpected bruises or abscesses, as well as regularly preventing soreness before it starts, such as after you went on a rocky trail or have been at a multi-day horse show working your horse a bit harder than usual. There are numerous situations when your horse could benefit from having their feet packed with a hoof packing products, including:

  1. For horses with thin or sensitive soles that bruise easily.
  2. A horse that tends to be foot-sore or has been called “tender footed”.
  3. If your horse is transitioning from wearing shoes to now going barefoot.
  4. If you’ve ridden on hard, rocky ground or footing.
  5. After heavy work or when competing and jumping multiple days in a row.
  6. When you’re trying to draw out a hoof abscess or bruise.
  7. To add moisture to a dry, brittle hoof.

Hoof Packing for Sore Feet

When hoof packing for sore feet in horses, it's advisable to use a suitable hoof packing material that provides comfort and support. Common choices include soft, pliable materials like clay to help cushion the sole and frog, providing relief to the horse and aiding in recovery from soreness, bruises, or other hoof-related discomfort. Many people use Absorbine Hooflex Magic Cushion Hoof Packing for sore feet. The choice of hoof packing material should be made in consultation with a qualified farrier or veterinarian, as they can assess the specific condition of the horse's hooves and recommend the most appropriate product or approach for effective relief and healing.

Hoof Packing for Abscesses

When hoof packing for abscesses in horses, selecting a material that can draw out and alleviate the infection and discomfort associated with the abscess is essential. Epsom salt poultices or commercial clay-based hoof-packing products are commonly used. These materials have drawing properties that help encourage the abscess to mature and eventually burst, providing the horse with relief. Before applying any hoof packing, it's crucial to consult with a skilled farrier or veterinarian who can assess the abscess's severity and recommend the most appropriate treatment and packing method to ensure a successful resolution.

How long do you leave hoof packing on?

When you pack your horse’s feet, you should leave the hoof packing in their hoof for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours at a time, and can repeat the process multiple days in a row or as needed. Many horse owners will put hoof packing in their horse’s feet overnight while they are stabled. You don’t want to use hoof packing while your horse is turned out or being ridden as it can fall out.

What should you use when packing your horse's hoof?

Hoof Products for Hoof Packing

Having the right supplies on-hand can make life easier when your horse has an unexpected abscess, loses a shoe, gets a stone bruise, or any of the other ailments that hoof packing can help treat. These supplies can make packing hooves quick, easy, and effective.

  1. Duct Tape makes a great outer layer when wrapping a hoof, holding your wrap or bandaging on.

  2. Diapers (size 3 or 4 baby diapers work well for average sized hooves), are great for wrapping a horse’s hoof! They are easy to fit around their hoof, absorbent, add cushion, and are very affordable. Diapers are a great choice if you are drawing out a hoof abscess or drainage.

  3. Rubber gloves are important as most hoof packing products are designed to be very sticky so that they stay in a horse’s foot, but can be quite messy on your hands without rubber gloves!

  4. Dura-Tech Vet Flex Bandage Wrap or any type of a self-adhering flexible bandage to wrap over top of your hoof packing and diaper (or bandage material), to keep the packing from falling out of the hoof.

  5. Absorbine Hooflex Magic Cushion Hoof Packing provides fast relief to sore feet and reduces heat and inflammation in the hoof quickly. It can even be packed underneath a shoe with a pad for a full shoeing cycle.

  6. Life Data Hoof Clay protects hooves from numerous bacterial and fungal conditions such as thrush and white line disease. It is easy to fill in small cracks and is designed to be used twice a week when treating hoof conditions.

  7. Kaeco Epsom Salt Poultice is a tried and true drawing agent to pull out bruising, inflammation, and hoof abscesses. This poultice works best when the hoof is wrapped.

  8. Dura-Tech Hoof Wound Pads are absorbent pads shaped to fit the bottom of a horse’s hoof. You can use vet wrap or Duct Tape to hold in place, containing your hoof packing to the bottom of the hoof.

  9. EquiFit Pack-N-Stick Hoof Tape makes packing your horses feet quick and easy. Simply apply your favorite hoof packing and stick one of these Hoof Tape pieces to the bottom of your horse’s hoof, smoothing the adhesive edges against the hoof wall and you’re good to go!

  10. The Deluxe Equine Slipper is a versatile hoof wrap style boot that keeps your horse’s hoof clean, dry, and protects any type of bandage applied while treating the hoof. It’s also great for those times your horse loses a shoe.

  11. The Woof Wear Medical Hoof Boot can be used in the stall or during turnout to keep wounds clean and any bandages or hoof packing kept in place.

  12. UltraFlex Flex Foam Hoof Wraps make it easy to add padding and protection to your horse’s hoof while treating with hoof packing or poultices. These wraps give you an added layer while being shaped to the hoof with easy to use hook and loop closures.

Magic Cushion vs. Poultice vs. Hoof Clay

Different types of hoof packing products work in various ways based on their ingredients and intended purposes. Hoof packing products, such as Absorbine Hooflex Magic Cushion or Rebound Hoof Pack are often made in a thick, spongy consistency that can be formed into a soft ball. You would then press this into the sole of your horse’s hoof and cover the bottom of the foot with some vet wrap or hoof tape, allowing the hoof packing to reduce hoof heat, pull out bruising or inflammation, and add cushion to the sole of the hoof.

Poultice products like Sore No-More Performance Ultra Poultice or Kaeco Epsom Salt Poultice can be smoothed onto the bottom of the horse’s hoof along the sole and frog, or on the coronary band if an abscess is trying to come through the top of the hoof, and covered with a wrap or hoof boot. While it draws out toxins, inflammation, abscesses and bruises, poultices don’t add any extra cushion to the bottom of a horse’s foot like a thicker hoof packing product can do.

Hoof clays such as Life Data Hoof Clay, have additional benefits at treating bacterial and fungal infections like thrush, white line disease, wall separation and infections that hoof packing or poultices may not be able to conquer. Hoof clay can be spread into areas like nail holes and cracks, twice a week, as a treatment or preventative for those conditions.

How-To Pack a Hoof: A Step-by-Step Guide

Packing a horse’s hoof, whether with hoof packing products or poultices, is a lot easier than you may think. Follow these easy steps on how to pack a horse’s hoof with hoof packing, the next time you need to treat a bruised hoof, hoof abscess, sore feet, or thin soles causing foot soreness.

  1. First, make sure your horse is standing quietly in a clean, dry area, either tied or with a helper to hold them. Your hands will be busy with wrapping so making sure your horse will stand still is important for this to be done quickly and easily.

  2. If you will be wrapping your horse’s hoof to keep the hoof packing, poultice, or medications intact, it can be helpful to have all of your supplies laid out and ready to go within reach from where you will be picking up their hoof. If you are using duct tape as your outer layer of the hoof wrap, you can get this ready ahead of time by cutting strips of duct tape apx 8” long and layering them into a circle shape that will fit over the bottom of your horse’s hoof with “wings” that can go up the sides of the hoof wall to hold it in place.

  3. Once ready, make sure your horse’s feet are dry and picked out, removing any mud, dirt, rocks, or shavings.

  4. Apply your hoof packing material, whether a thick cushioned hoof packing product, poultice, or medications, to the sole of the horse’s hoof. Then, using either a baby diaper, poultice-pad, or any absorbent materials of your choice (if necessary), lay that item over the bottom of your horse’s sole so that your packing materials are covered.

  5. Now you can use vet wrap to add a few layers around the horse’s hoof to hold everything in place. If you wrap over the coronary band, make sure your wrapping is not too tight and you can easily fit two fingers between the wrap and your horse’s hair. You can cut a slit in the bandage at the front of the coronary band to add some relief if it feels too tight.

  6. Next, apply your DIY hoof wrap made from Duct Tape, or something like one of these easy to use options made just for this purpose; EquiFit Pack-N-Stick Hoof Tape or UltraFlex Flex Foam Hoof Wraps, to add some protection to your wrap along the bottom of their foot.

  7. You should replace the hoof packing and wrap every 24 hours, but ideally you should leave your hoof packing on for at least 12 hours or overnight when possible.

No matter what life throws at your horse, or those instances when your horse does the throwing and loses a shoe, gets a hoof abscess, or suffers from some hoof soreness, you can have everything you need for horse hoof care and be well prepared to use hoof packing or hoof poultice to help them feel better.

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