Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How To: Wrap a Hoof

Thanks, Theo, for giving me a chance to write up another how to entry.

This is a write up of how I wrap a hoof.  I did this for a pulled shoe when I knew the farrier wasn't going to be out for at least a day, but it's the same wrap I would do for a bruise or an abscess that hasn't started to drain yet.  I'm a bit over protective of mi papi's feet, for any other horse I'd skip the epsom salt, but with him better safe than sorry. 

As always, your mileage will vary and everyone has their own way to do this.  This is how I do it.

What you need:

Packing:  This can be betadine mixed with epsom salt, betadine mixed with sugar, ichthamol, or this fun premade epsom salt poultice.  Ask your vet for your individual situation.

I love this stuff, so easy to use and it smells great.  There aren't a lot of foot products that smell great and actually work.  It's expensive if you're going to be doing a lot of wrapping, but it's fantastic for a couple days.  Much easier to work with than sugar-dine or salt-dine packing.

Cotton:  You have a couple choices.  I use diapers most of the time, but sheet cotton also works great.  Diapers are easier, sheet cotton can be cut to size and wraps with sheet cotton tend to stay on better.  Sheet cotton is also more expensive.  I'm using sheet cotton in this example because it's what I had on hand, but diapers are done the exact same way.

Vet wrap:  This keeps the cotton in place and gives you something for your duct tape to stick to.  Colors are optional, I say the brighter the better.

Duct tape:  Rolls and rolls of duct tape.  So much duct tape.

Scissors:  Bandage scissors are great for use near so many important structures, you don't want to use sharp point scissors near this part of a horse.

Latex glove:  It's not required, but I much prefer doing packing with a glove so I don't reek afterward.  Highly, highly recommended if your vet wants you to use icthamol.

Hoof pick:  For the obvious use of cleaning out the hoof.

A clean, dry hoof:  Dry is super important, duct tape doesn't stick to anything damp.  I got all of the mud off of him, used a towel to try the hoof off, then let it air dry while I groomed him.  The wrap won't stay if you start with a wet hoof.

How to wrap a hoof:

1.  Make a duct tape pad to wrap the foot.  I used my locker door to hang the piece, but there are lots of spots  you can use.  Start with vertical strips, being sure to overlap them enough to keep them water tight, then go back through with horizontal strips.  This is the part that will be resting on the ground, so it needs reinforcement.  Once you've created a sheet large enough to cover the bottom of the hoof and come up the sides about halfway, set it sticky side up in your work area.

2.  Gather up all of your supplies.  Once you start, you won't be able to put the foot down easily.  It's crucial to have all of your supplies at hand.

3.   Pick the hoof and get it as clean as possible.  Use the brush and remove everything you can.

4.  Add the packing.  If you're using the poultice or icthamol, it's nice and sticky.  It will stay put (even if you forget the sheet cotton and have to put the hoof down, *coughcough*).  With the saltdine or sugardine packing, keep the foot horizontal and pack it in there while being careful to not let it fall out.  If you know where the bruise/abscess is, be sure to focus in that area.  If it's preventative or general care, I pack it in around the hoof generously then ease it out to the toe.  When the horse stands on it, they'll smoosh everything into place.

5.  Cover with cotton.   If you're using a diaper, put the crotch of the diaper over the sole of the horse's hoof and do up the tabs on the top of the hoof.  If you're using sheet cotton, just slap a piece over top of the packing.

6.  Vet wrap the hoof.  This step gives you the security to put the foot down, keeps the packing tightly in place and keeps the duct tape from going directly on the hoof (because it's impossible to get off enough dust to really stick to the hoof).  Figure eights are popular, but I'm not that coordinated.  So long as the whole hoof is covered in vet wrap, I'm happy.  Don't let the vet wrap cross over the coronet band and up to the hair, you can cut off blood flow.

Once I'm done wrapping, I'll run my finger around the entire coronet band and push down any vet wrap that's too close.

7.  Stick the duct tape pad you made to the bottom of the hoof.  Push hard against the vet wrap and push it up around the hoof.  At this point I usually have my horse put his foot down to use his weight to press everything into place.

8.  More duct tape.  Wrap the hoof in duct tape, locking the duct tape pad in place.  Pay particular attention to any wrinkles where moisture can come in.  Moisture is the enemy of a hoof wrap.  Pay particular attention that you don't cross the line to skin.  You don't want to cut off blood flow.

Once all of the duct tape was in place, I slapped on a pair of bell boots for extra protection.  After two pulled shoes in front, bell boots may be a permanent part of his wardrobe.

Tricks to remember:

  • Dry, dry, dry!  Duct tape won't stick or last if there's any dampness
  • Stick duct tape to duct tape when possible.  It's the best surface and will last the longest.
  • Candy canes make a great reward for a horse that's stood patiently for all of this.
  • The easiest way to get one of these wraps off is to take a pair of bandage shears and cut down from the top.  The wrap will just slide off afterward.

Happy wrapping!

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