ABSCESS!! Wretched things!

*sigh* ... OK, so you called your horse in for breakfast or you're turning him out for the day and notice that he's dead lame on one hoof all of a sudden. 

What do you think?  


I felt for heat in all her hooves. - Nothing. Uniformly warm just as they should be. My mustang acted as if she broke her leg ... she even SAT DOWN at one point, mid walk!  I honestly thought she had gone severely laminitic overnight or broke her hoof or leg but then calmed myself and rational thought took over again ... (photo from google - not my mare)

I looked for swelling and inflammation on her legs and shoulders and hips - Nothing. 

I looked for cuts  - Nothing. 

I looked for and tested for bruising on her hooves - Nothing. 

I could NOT find ANYTHING wrong but, clearly, there WAS something wrong! 

She was holding up her left hind hoof and was not putting ANY weight on it at all as she "hopped" with me up to the barn. 


So I knew it was her left hind hoof. 

The elephant in the barn? 


(Yeah, but I HAD to go through all the options and rule 'em out first ... that's what one does when the mind goes directly to ... "OH MY ... she's DYING!"  (especially when she was acting that way!) 

 Yep, one of the 'symptoms' of an abscess is a SUDDEN, drastic lameness. More subtle lameness can be symptomatic, as well, but MY mustang is SUCH a drama queen ... in her mind, she WAS dying!  And she had me convinced for a few seconds, too! 

So, SUDDEN lameness and various degrees of drama. 

When I felt her hoof I didn't even find a soft spot BUT she was definitely sore. Again, no heat, no swelling, no outward signs such as a bruise. 

So, the first thing I did was to pull out my activated charcoal and put about 1/8th of a cup in a big flat, black rubber bucket to soak her. Of course, I had to really convince her that she wasn't going to drown by putting her hoof into that flat bucket but ... we got it after 5 hours!  (just kidding -- took a few mins of convincing, though) 

I let her soak for about 10 mins. 

She did well with that. Seemed a tad bit more comfortable. I got a couple of pellets on homeopathic Hepar Sulph and dropped them in her bottom lip knowing that if it was, indeed, an abscess brewing that the homeopathic remedy would help it vent in about 3 days. 

I turned her back out again. 

For the next 3 days she hobbled around, obviously not a happy camper. 

Then, on the 4th morning when I went out to throw hay, there she was ... all back to herself again, hollering at me to get her fed because it was quite obvious the poor thing was S-T-A-H-V-I-N-G despite her pasture and 24/7 hay supply!  

No lameness evident. No holding up the foot. No sitting down when starting to walk. No more drama ... ITS A MIRACLE! 

Nope, it simply was that the abscess in her left hind hoof HAD, indeed, vented. The most likely cause of lameness is abscess ... the elephant in the barn.

There was a small vent at the coronary band that was oozing some pus ... nothing horrific BUT .. because it was fairly muddy out, I wanted to be sure that it was flushed and cleaned out well. So, after I gave her some "Silicea" homeopathic remedy to resolve the abscess, I again soaked her in the activated charcoal bath and I then mixed some essential oils into some infused calendula oil to flush out the vent. With Calendula oil, it causes SUCH rapid healing, that I wanted to make sure it reached the very most inside and bottom of the abscess. Otherwise, the vent would heal right up on the outside before the inside was resolved and trap the remaining bacteria. So, that being done, I turned her out again to let her move around and keep good circulation for healing going into the hoof. 

I soaked her 3 times the first day, flushing with the oils after the soak; 2 times the following day and on the 3rd day, the vent was almost totally healed. 

Of course, the scar grew down with the hoof as the new growth developed and it finally, after several months, the hoof simply chipped itself at the area of the scar and then the horn was smooth again. Healthy new hoof with no further issues. 

There are other ways that abscesses are treated. Veterinarians like to dig around to open the abscess then soak and poultice with Magna Paste (an epsom salt paste) or, other product, and bandage the hoof; perhaps keep the horse stalled in deep bedding until the hoof has fully healed. I don't happen to like that as it restricts movement of the horse which, in turn, restricts essential blood flow to the hoof (and the other hooves, as well). In addition, I've learned that digging around the hoof can delay healing. And yeah, I had done things this way in the 'old days' when I wasn't aware of activated charcoal, homeopathics and essential oils. But, once I did become aware of them and their incredible strength and potency to fully resolve abscesses (as well as other types of situations), I  hooked onto them and never looked back. 

The important thing, though, is if you're in doubt, always call your vet or healthcare provider to work with you to resolve the event. While many horses simply will blow out abscesses and heal themselves with no intervention, there's always those who, for whatever reason, go through the drama of a developing abscess. 

Keep in mind, too, the more healthy the hoof the harder and longer it may take to resolve and abscess from start to finish. 

If you'd like more information on alternative ways to treat abscesses, please don't hesitate to let me know. I will work it all through WITH you ... 

(Oh, and check it out here on our new DISCUSSION FORUM!  http://forum.scootboots.com/discussion/64/abcesses?new=1 )


Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:  www.thepenzancehorse.com/2012/RESUME.pdf




Hi Linda …. I JUST saw this comment now, … 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves is very detailed. I have changed a few things over the years since the first publication and am in the middle of getting together a REVISED publication. Feel free to email to me: gwen.santagate@gmail.com if you’d like further info or with any questions you might have. :)

Gwenyth Santagate December 14, 2017

Ms Santagate, I like this article and was wondering if your book “10 secrets to a healthy hoof” would have a detailed remedy and notes for future health of the hoof. I have a mare that is continually having an abscess issue in her left fore hoof. I have tried soaking and wrapping, the farrier comes every eight weeks to trim her, I keep her barefoot and she is on pasture. I am frustrated because I cannot keep her sound. She was a rescue so I do not know her history except she is 9…….any suggestions would be greatly appreciated……thanks

Linda November 01, 2017

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