The easiest coronary band injuries to deal with are minor scrapes and scratches. These are superficial and unlikely to cause a problem. Simply clean them up and apply generic triple-antibiotic ointment, if you feel you need it. No need to call your veterinarian, unless you’re not sure.
Things get trickier as the wounds get larger or more challenging. Some horses tend to over reach and may clip the rear of the coronary band on the front feet. This can happen to a rear foot as well if young horses get rough housing and chasing and jumping on each other out in the pasture. A small cut may just require cleaning and ointment as described above. Larger cuts, perhaps longer than ½ inch, or deep cuts may require more care.
Deep cuts need to be cleaned and then have a pressure bandage applied. An open wound will bleed a bit, which actually helps to flush the area, but pressure may be required to help clotting. Your horse’s feet are always in dirt and manure, so cleanliness is important. A deep wound may require systemic antibiotics and tetanus antitoxin or a booster tetanus.
Clean and rewrap the wound at least once daily. A pressure wrap (have your veterinarian show you how to do this so you apply “just the right” amount of pressure) can help to minimize the development of “proud flesh” (see June 2011 and December 2012) or over-exuberant granulation tissue. If your turnout areas are muddy, you may need to keep your horse in for a couple of days.
Some coronary wounds may appear small but reflect a serious injury, including punctures of the coronary band. The tissues here are softer than the hoof right below them and susceptible to things like wooden splinters from cracked fence boards. On first glance you might only see a small cut, but if you feel carefully you may feel a splinter. Most horses react with pain if you are palpating an area with a splinter. Punctures can also come from a horse pawing at a wire fence and catching a loose wire.
A “gravel” hoof injury extends up to the coronary band. In moist, humid conditions, a soft sole can develop an infection or have a foreign body, like gravel, get into the soft tissues of the sole or frog. These infections can work up through the hoof, often right under the surface of the hoof.
You might notice your horse being lame despite no obvious injury. Generally, the hoof will have some heat and the digital pulse will be elevated. Epsom salt soaks in warm water will help to draw out the infection. The soaks will need to be done twice daily for five to 10 minutes. You may get a small sore right on the coronary band or your farrier may open an infected area on the sole when trimming.
Remember that hooves grow down from the coronary band. A serious wound to the coronary band could lead to future problems with normal hoof growth. This is an area prone to proud flesh so wrapping can be important as well as daily care of any injuries. Don’t hesitate to involve your veterinarian and your farrier for any serious coronary band wounds.
To help prevent coronary band injuries keep your horse’s feet trimmed (or shod) properly. Check your pastures and turnout areas for any fencing that a horse could catch a hoof on. Remove any dangerous debris such as broken glass or metal pieces. If your horse needs bell boots to protect his coronary bands while working, use them faithfully and keep them clean and in good condition.
Article by Contributing Veterinary Editor Deb Eldredge DVM.