Last year, I wrote about Bear’s recovery from his latest abscess episode. Bear is my 27-year-old gelding whom I’ve had for 17 years now. He has Cushing’s Disease, Equine Metabolic Syndrome and arthritis. He is retired from riding.
Here is Bear during last year’s abscess crisis. He wore a Soft Ride Boot on one front hoof. On the other, he wore a complete set of bandages due to his leg swelling above the abscessed hoof.
Despite his age, diagnoses and occasional abscess, Bear has otherwise been trucking right along. Last year’s abscess healed in short order, but we are now dealing with the damaged part of his hoof wall as it grows out.
It’s typically said that it takes about a year for a horse to grow an entirely new hoof. They grow their hoof wall from the coronet band downward. So if an abscess works its way out of the hoof interior by busting out the top of the hoof, that part of the hoof wall will crack. And it will remain cracked until the hoof completely grows out.
As the cracked part moves closer to the ground, the horse may lose an entire chunk of hoof wall as the damaged area becomes increasingly unstable. For your additional reading pleasure, here is an online article from Vettec Animal Health company that touches on this issue.
Unfortunately, that is what has happened to Bear. Bear’s farrier previously prepared me for this probability. I must say, though, my heart sank when his hoof wall came apart. Here is the photograph I sent to said farrier, asking if he could fit Bear into his appointment schedule ASAP.
When I saw that the hoof wall was going to give way, just before contacting the farrier, I made an emergency hoof boot with red vet wrap sandwiched between two pieces of Equifit Pack-N-Stick Hoof Tape. It looked rag-tag up close, but the most important thing is that it stayed on for almost exactly 48 hours until the farrier arrived.
Bear’s farrier was able to clean up the damaged section, but now there is not much hoof wall left between the ground and the bottom of Bear’s hoof. Without a nice section of hoof wall on which to distribute his weight, Bear’s hoof sole is supporting more of his heft than what it is designed to do. This, of course, can lead to hoof soreness.
The goal now is to keep Bear as pain-free as possible while the hoof wall continues to grow out. Bear will need some kind of hoof support 24/7 for the foreseeable future.
In my hoof-protection arsenal, I currently have Equifit Pack-N-Stick Hoof Tape, Woof Wear Medical Hoof Boots (shown in the photo below) and Soft Ride Boots. I am also looking at other temporary hoof boot options, comparing features and prices to see what else might work for Bear. Any suggestions on products to try? Let me know in the comments section.
By the way, the links I’ve included in this post are not sponsored in any way. I receive no compensation for including them. Just thought they might be helpful for any readers who are curious about those types of hoof support products.
If I don’t need an emergency hoof boot shipped overnight, my favorite place to look for gently used hoof boots is Ebay. People sometimes keep boots just for emergencies and then re-sell them once the situation resolves. Often the hoof boot is still in excellent condition and sold at a discount from the original price. The trick is finding a used boot that happens to be in your horse’s size.
But, what if I can’t keep Bear comfortable enough through my own efforts? Another option is to have glue-on shoes applied at Bear’s next farrier appointment.
Whenever I find myself dealing with horse lameness, in all its various forms and appearances, I am reminded of the old adage, “No hoof, no horse.” I admit to choking up with relief when Bear’s farrier took a look at his blown-out hoof wall and declared that it was not a life-ending situation. No sensitive inner structures were involved in the destruction. Just the hard outer layer of the hoof wall.
With Bear turning 27 earlier this year, the thought of his eventual death is not far from my mind. I will likely need to consider eventual euthanasia for Bear when his quality of life declines. While I am intellectually prepared to make that decision, my tears of relief during Bear’s farrier visit told me that my emotions have yet to catch up. Caring for Bear is not always easy, but I do fiercely love this old horse.