I’ll give you one guess what I dealt with today… If you guessed hoof abscess, you’re right! Ding! Ding! Ding! This is one of my full board horses. I love him to pieces, but man does he keep me on my toes. We’ll call him “T.” After a long stint of lameness, T has finally been looking pretty good. Last Thursday evening he looked sound, but then Friday rolled around and the poor guy was so painful and lame. Based on past experiences, I figured he had an abscess. Few things besides an abscess can suddenly show up so dramatically. After a visit with the farrier, we determined he had an abscess from an old hot nail.
Do you ever feel like there are so many horsey terms used, you’ll never be able to get caught up? With every year and every experience, I slowly peel back the layers of equine terms and definitions I never knew existed. I have survived for a long time in the horse world without ever having to use the term, “hot nail,” but now is that time. Here’s the quick and dirty version of Hot Nails 101.
What’s a hot nail?
Good Question. A hot nail is simply a nail that was driven too close, or directly into, the sensitive laminae inside the hoof. Ouch!
Why did that happen to my horse?
Well, there are several factors that play into this answer, but most commonly are a thin hoof wall, the horse moving during nailing, or lack of farrier experience.
How do I know if my horse has a hot nail?
Sometimes–not always–the horse will react when a close nail is driven. They might flinch, jerk back, toss their head, etc. An experienced farrier will hopefully see this, pull the nail, and flush the nail hole. If the horse did not react–which is common–then you will see lameness a few days following being shod.
What do I do if I think my horse has a hot nail?
First and foremost, panic. That always helps. Just kidding 🙂 Call your farrier. Your farrier will use hoof testers to determine which nail is hot. Sometimes, all they have to do is pull the close nail. Other times, they might need to pull the shoe entirely.
How can I prevent a hot nail from happening?
Most horses rarely get hot nails, but the few horses who do, generally have thin walls. When there’s little hoof wall, it’s very easy for a nail to get too close to the sensitive tissue inside the hoof–even for skilled farriers. Biotin supplements can be used to promote hoof growth and are fairly inexpensive. Also, make sure your horse stands quietly for the farrier. It’s hard to get a good placement of the nail with a moving target.
My horse has an infected hot nail and now I have a full-blown abscess on my hands OMGwhatamIgonnado?
Again, the best thing to do is panic. 🙂 If your farrier hasn’t already come, I would give them a call. Some farriers prefer to open up abscesses on their own. In the meantime, a regimen of soaking in epsom salt and packing with poultice is the way to go. Here’s a post on treating abscesses. The idea is simple, though. Soak in warm water and epsom salt, fill the hoof with epsom salt poultice, cover with a diaper, secure with vetrap. Abscesses are actually pretty cool, because as soon as they drain your horse feels so much better! Instant gratification!