What is the best way to soak my horse’s hooves?
Soaking hooves is often part of the treatment for a variety of hoof ailments, namely abscesses. A nice soak in a custom concoction sounds like a great idea (on paper) but in reality may horses despise standing in a feed tub. Of course they do! Feed tubs are for FOOD, and your horse knows it!
Spilling in 3,2,1....
You have a few choices when soaking hooves, but a few ground rules apply to all methods. Make sure your horse can deal with soaking before he has the abscess or he needs to marinate in ice for a case of laminitis. This process is part desensitization, part patience training, and part just do it. (If you have read any of my previous articles, you know that the time to start training a behavior or introduce something new is not when the Vet is standing there telling you he needs something and you can only sputter back “but he doesn’t like it when I try that”. )
Ground rules for everyone’s safety:
- Practice before you need to do it! Just for grins, see what he thinks of getting his hoof soaked when he doesn’t need it.
- Use cross ties! These minimize the fidgeting that your horse can do as he stews in his special soaking mixture.
- Reward good behavior!
- Don’t leave him in the cross ties to tend to other barn chores. This is a sure fire way to have your tub or container spill everywhere.
Make sure the bottom of your soaking device is strong enough to take your horse's weight and shoes (if that's the case).
Some tips for making the soaking time pass easily:
- Timing is everything! Soak when his belly is full, not when hay is getting handed out!
- Combine cross tie tasks - soak first, then go about grooming. You can distract your horse with lots of scratching in his favorite places.
- Add a hay net if you need to. His belly may be full, but hay nets make excellent pacifiers for the dancing cross tie horse.
- Make sure your horse is comfortable. If he’s clipped and naked and standing in an outside cross tie in the winter wind, he’s likely to fidget and be cranky.
Make life easy for you and your horse with a hoof boot designed for soaking.
The best containers to use:
Some horses do just great in an old feed bin. I like the 6 1/2 gallon size, the sides are about 10 inches deep, and they are wide for even the biggest hoof. Once a feed tub becomes a soaking tub, it should stay a soaking tub.
Fancy soaking boots. These are an excellent idea, and you horse can lift his leg and the boot just follows! A greatly reduced change of major spilling.
Recycled 5L fluid bags. These bad boys are thick, and tall, and can hold enough water to be effective. If you are soaking for an abscess, it’s likely his shoe has been removed and the bag is less likely to be torn.
This 6.5 gallon tub is perfect for soaking hooves. IF your horse will play along.
What’s you secret to a peaceful hoof soaking session?