If you have a horse, somewhere along the line you’ve had a hoof problem: bruises, abscesses, chipping, poor hoof quality, thrush, pulled shoes, laminitis, sore soles and more. While the hoof is truly an engineering marvel, the interface between the ground and the weight of a horse is bound to take a beating. Because of how frequent hoof problems are, we’re always on the lookout for new products that might make the job of caring for hoof problems easier. This trial includes some products that caught our eye.
If you’ve ever cursed at duct tape, despaired at how quickly Vetrap wears through on a hoof, or kicked yourself for not having a backup system in place for lost shoes, the Hoof Wraps product may be for you.
Hoof Wraps are a lightweight bandaging system made of ballistic nylon. They come with an EVA foam pad, which you should use even if you think the horse doesn’t need padding since it also protects the bottom of the bandage. The bandage folds up around the foot with a series of Velcro closures. They are meant to be disposable and have a life of approximately seven to 10 days before the material wears through.
Hoof Wraps can be used to protect a foot if a shoe is lost, protect an injured sole, or hold medications or poultices in place. They come with detailed instructions, but the bandage itself is so clearly marked that anyone can put one of these on in no time. It will work for horses with shoe sizes between 00 and 2.
It’s tough enough for turnout, too. In fact, the Velcro on these bandages is much more grippy than most of these types of closures.
At $19.95 per bandage, this is something definitely worth keeping around the barn. (www.hoofwraps.com, 877-777-9198.)
The Soft-Ride Boots are designed for comfort and support when a horse is shipping or basically standing around. They aren’t appropriate for riding or for a horse that is very active on turnout.
What makes these boots special is the inserts, or orthotics. The orthotics are made of a gel-like material that immediately conforms to the contours of the foot. They have a rim across the front of the toe. The back half of the orthotic is slightly thicker than the front, and there is also a frog support. They’re available in either uniform or dual-density pads.
The boot itself has a dense urethane sole with a beveled toe, wavy grooved pattern on ground surface at the toe and perimeter, and a bubble pattern under the coffin bone. The upper part of the boot is ballistic nylon. The boot is easy to put on and take off.
We tried these boots on a mare whose heels tend to collapse and run forward, laminar connections stretched, flat soled. Her toe was kept backed up as much as possible, as were her heels, but she was having trouble re-establishing concavity and still getting foot sore. The difference in the mare was remarkable after only two days wearing the Soft-Rides. She had a complete turnaround in attitude, fluidity, eagerness for work.
We also used them on a gelding who had similar issues as well as neglected feet and improper trimming with a distorted hoof capsule. His tendons would fill on occasion after a work. We used the standard orthotics.
Our results here weren’t as impressive as with the mare, and the gelding seemed to dislike wearing the boots. However, this horse had a narrow, contracted foot from prolonged poor shoeing. When we trimmed off the frog insert, so that the back of the orthotic was flat, he was instantly more comfortable. There was no change in this horse’s movement or attitude, but the tendon-filling problem disappeared.
Overall, we really liked these boots and orthotics. They did what they claimed to do, but we pause at the price. The boots with one pair of orthotics included are $175. A pair of orthotics alone is $60.
If you’re thinking of trying the orthotics in another pair of boots, consider that they’re designed specifically to fit these boots and may not work in another design. These boots and orthotics are good for horses with laminitis pain. (www.soft-ride.com, 866-763-8743.)
Easy Care Pads
The makers of Easy Boots have come out with a great pads for their boots. All the pads are EVA foam, with a rubber-like consistency. The pads can also be cut to relieve pressure on abscess sites, bruises or the coffin bone.
The Dome pads have a gently rounded sole surface to conform to the concavity of the hoof, cushioning and stimulating the sole at the same time. They should only be used for feet with enough concavity to allow the pad to seat well into the bottom of the foot, with the bottom flush with hoof wall. (Using these pads on flatter feet may cause discomfort or bruising.)
The Easy Boot Comfort Pad system is diverse. The frog support and pressure pads are available in three densities, soft medium and firm. The extra ?? inch height in the frog pressure pad could be useful for acutely laminitic horses if your veterinarian advises hind-foot elevation, or for horses with high heels and poor frog contact with the ground.
Our test horses with low heels and good frog contact were uncomfortable with the additional frog pressure and went much better with the frog support flush with the sole pad. The frog pressure arrangement could also cause problems for horses with very generous frogs or those with severely contracted feet.
Frog and sole-pad densities can be mixed and matched in whatever combination you would like to try. For heavier horses or extra padding, you could stack two sole pads onto one frog-pressure pad. One popular use of this system is in transitioning horses from shod to barefoot. (www.easycareinc.com, 800-447-8836)
The Equicast Temporary Support System (ETSS), or Equicast system, was developed to be a support system that is basically a hoof around the hoof.
The ETSS has been used for laminits, after hoof-wall resections, while growing out flared walls, cracks, the transition to barefoot from shoes, support while growing out injured areas and as protection if a shoe is lost.
The Equicast encases and supports the whole hoof, allowing it to heal without uneven forces being applied to structures that are damaged or currently too weak to function like they should. The ETSS isn’t difficult to apply. By the third attempt we had it down.
The hoof casts can be used under or over shoes, or by themselves. The casts will last three weeks for horses on stall rest or turned out on pasture, about two weeks if worked lightly on soft surfaces. Small worn areas occur at the toes and/or heels within a few days of applying casts but these don’t influence effectiveness.
Removing the casts is more difficult than keeping them on. The edge of a rasp can be used to score through the cast, or a Dremel tool.
The ETSS is waterproof, so no worries for turned-out horses. It ”breathes” to allow moisture to flow both in and out. Because of this, it’s still possible to soak the feet to treat absces ses, thrush or white line disease while the casts are on.
We’d consider Equicast ETSS for horses with severe hoof problems that need maximum protection and support while they heal and grow out, but we recommend you get professional advice and assistance if you want to try this product. (www.equicast.us, 910-281-5658.)
Sole-Guard And Super Fast
Sole-Guard ($30 for 180 cc tube, enough to do three to four average-size feet) is a new rapid-setting, adherent sole protection material that can be used without a shoe. It was developed to help protect the sole of horses transitioning from shod to barefoot, but it also works on a shod foot. It distributes weight over the entire surface of the hoof and also provides good stimulation to the frog and sole, while preventing the walls from doing all the work.
Cupping the hoof so that the sole surface is up and level, the Sole Guard is simply dispensed onto a clean sole until flush with the walls then the surface smoothed and evened with a sheet of heavy plastic. This step is important to avoid uneven pressure.
We used it on three horses, all in work, and it did stay in for over three weeks. One horse got 4.5 weeks.
The consistency is firm, but none of our test horses minded. However, it may be too firm for a horse with thin soles, one that has sole tenderness or a laminitic horse. Horses with a healthy amount of natural concavity should tolerate it well.
Super Fast ($32 for 180 cc tube, about four shoes) is a urethane hoof adhesive that sets up quickly. It bonds securely to the hoof and can be used to level the foot, make adherent rim pads, create extensions or as a replacement for shoes.
To make shoes, the trimmed foot is brushed free of any crumbling material and is dried thoroughly with a hair dryer. The material is applied about ?? inch thick, in the desired width/web, and extended up onto the hoof wall for additional security.
The hoof should be held up for a full cure time of several minutes before letting the horse stand on it. The material can be rasped just like a hoof wall. Grooves can be added to the ground surface for traction.
We loved the Super Fast. It’s easy to work with and made the job of finding the most comfortable and even landing a snap for a test horse with multiple conformation issues. With the Super Fast, you can add or remove length, and change angles easily.
Horses maintained on grass can get up to four weeks use out these shoes. Those working on abrasive surfaces might be two to three weeks. Any nicks can be rasped smooth, and you can add layers of Super Fast between trims.
Note: There is a one-time expense of $55 for a dispensing gun unless you can borrow one. Miscellaneous expenses are $1 for mixing/dispensing tips, a new one is needed each time you use the tube. (www.vettec.com, 800-483-8832.)
These are some great innovations that will help many horses with hoof problems. However, more important than anything you put on the hoof is what’s under it???the trim. A correct and balanced trim, done by a professional farrier, has to be in place before anything else can help.
Our favorite product in this trial is definitely Hoof Wraps, as it’s something we’ll all need one time or another. These did not come off, and they are well-priced, making them a must for your first-aid kit.
The other products in this trial are dependent upon the right item for the right condition. Each one was excellent in its own way, but address different hoof problems. Consult your farrier for assistance.
Article by Horse Journal staff.