Ask the Vet: Packing Hooves

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In our Ask the Vet column, Dr. Lydia Gray answers your horse-health questions at HorseChannel.com/AskTheVet.

Horse Hooves
Photo by Rade Lukovic/iStock/Thinkstock

Q: What are the pros and cons of packing your horse’s feet and what do you recommend packing them with?

This question was answered by SmartPak’s Hoof Health Consultant Danvers Child, CJF) Certified Journeyman Farrier).

A: Hoof packing is situational/individual, and your best advice will come from your hoof care professional. It is typically done for one of five reasons:

  1. To moisturize the hoof.
  2. To eliminate excess moisture from the hoof.
  3. To provide support for the hoof.
  4. To address bacterial or fungal issues within the hoof.
  5. To address inflammation/bruising in the hoof.

The traditional approach to packing for any/all of these five concerns is to utilize a bentonite clay base packing, which—combined with herbal ingredients—works as a poultice to soothe sore hooves, tendons, and ligaments. This is an excellent choice following strenuous activity, and most products can be used on the lower limb as well as on the solar surface of the hoof. These clay-based products tend to harden and dry after application and require a certain skill level for application.

Other products, which are commonly used by farriers under a pad as long-term packings have recently become quite popular. These products, which commonly use a leather dust base, offer similar results, yet they maintain a more consistent, soft texture and are often more appropriate for novice application.

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Dr. Lydia Gray is the Medical Director and Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine in Plymouth, MA, where she directs the research and development of products and provides horse health and nutrition education to a wide variety of audiences. Dr. Gray’s work has appeared in more than a dozen general and trade publications and she speaks frequently around the country. She is the proud owner of a Trakehner gelding named “Newman” that she competes in dressage and combined driving.

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