Your horse’s feet take a beating. A galloping horse may strike the ground with a force as high as 2 ?? tons. The horse’s sole, frog and hoof wall are also prone to a variety of problems and infections.
The practice of packing hooves likely dates back as far as when horses became domesticated. A variety of natural substances have been used, from cow manure to river bed sediment to clays of various types, depending on the desired result. This isn’t just something to keep you busy fussing over your horse, it has real benefits.
Packing As A Treatment
Packing is frequently used to help treat problems, making what you pack onto the hoof important.
After appropriate farrier attention to remove diseased tissues, packing can be of great benefit to horses with thrush, by medicating the feet and providing a barrier against further infection. Hawthorne Sole Pack and Numotizine are stand-outs here.
Horses living in dry environments can develop dry soles and brittle, shrunken frogs, especially if shod. Packing helps condition these tissues. Forshner’s Hoof Packing doesn’t easily dry out, making it ideal. Sole Pack is also resistant to drying.
Soreness related to bruising, thin soles or just plain heavy work is probably the main reason people pack feet. The clay-based hoof packings will help cool inflamed feet as long as you are careful to make sure they do not dry out. Magic Cushion is an excellent packing for sore feet. (Note: A horse with foot soreness should have a veterinary work up to determine the cause.)
Hoof abscesses cause a tremendous amount of pain. While most will exit at the coronary band, some horses have collections under their soles that are difficult to localize and difficult to drain. Hoof packing can help by keeping the tissues supple and drawing out the infection.
Clay poultices are a good place to start, and Bowie Clay is a particularly good choice because it consistently adheres well to feet. For added drawing power, you can include Epsom salts (about half a cup per pound of clay), or use the Epsom Salt Poultice product. Numotizine also draws well.
Once the abscess has either opened on its own, or been located so the vet or farrier can open it, Hawthorne Sole Pack or Magic Cushion will protect and soothe the area and help protect from reinfection. Magic Cushion also helps stimulate rapid regrowth of sole.
Hot versus cold: Whether you are trying to calm down inflammation, improve blood supply, or simply provide some relief from extremes of environmental cold or heat, how you choose to pack the feet will have an effect. Packing material can be either refrigerated or briefly microwaved (or floated in hot water inside a plastic bag) before use for an immediate temperature altering effect. If preparing your packing fresh from powder, use either cold or hot water to mix. Ingredients in premixed packings also have an effect. If you need an anti-inflammatory/cooling effect, go with Magic Cushion or a plain clay with cold water.
Numotizine is excellent for drawing/medicinal needs, but it’s more difficult to work with. Bowie Clay is economical and you’ll find on racetracks across the nation, but it’s dusty before you add water and you must buy it in 50-lb. bags.
Overall, our favorites are Magic Cushion and Hawthorne’s Sole Pack. For most small barns, Forshner’s Hoof Packing is the Best Buy.