At my barn, everyone works together to do right by the horses. That means that if anyone sees something not quite right then they need to notify my trainer/the barn owner. This policy of looking out of each other's horses works really well because the earlier you can catch something gone wrong the easier it is to fix it.
Today when I was cleaning the paddocks, I noticed that Poppy, my trainer's Warmblood mare had a severe limp in her walk. Poor Poppy is very injury-prone and actually colicked earlier this week, so I dropped everything I was doing and went and found my trainer. My trainer was worried that maybe she was colicking again and so ran over to Poppy. After a quick investigation, she realized that Poppy's left front cannon was very swollen and Poppy couldn't put any weight on that leg. When my trainer picked her left front hoof she found a huge rock in it and so told me that she think that Poppy has an abscess.
An abscess is basically a bacterial infection in the hoof that results from something puncturing the hoof. There are other causes as well but in all of the cases that I have seen they are a result of a rock getting stuck in the horse's hoof. Basically, the bacterial infection causes a mass of dead cells to be stuck inside of the hoof and so the dead cells need to get out of the hoof in order for the horse to get better. Sometimes abscesses can be treated without veterinary help, but in moderate to severe cases a vet will need to come out and puncture the hoof to allow the infection to escape.
Since I was around, I asked my trainer if I could watch how she treated Poppy's abscess. First, she brought Poppy into her stall and tied her to the wall. Then she got all of her materials: Epsom salt, a diaper, medical sticky gauze, scissors, a hoof pad, a hoof wrap, and duct tape.
My trainer picked out Poppy's hoof and then she put the Epsom salt with a little bit of water in the diaper. She said that small diapers work the best for this, but the one she used on Poppy was a regular sized diaper. Then she wrapped the diaper around Poppy's hoof, so that the Epsom salt was on the sole of Poppy's hoof, and strapped it on. The Epsom salt will draw out the impurity from the hoof so that it will heal more quickly.
After that, she put a hoof pad over the diaper and wrapped the entire hoof with the medical sticky gauze to hold the hoof pad in place. The hoof pad is basically a rubber disc and attaching it to the hoof will protect the diaper from tearing and releasing the Epsom salts.
My trainer then got a hoof wrap and put that over the gauze. She then finished it off by wrapping the entire thing in a solid layer of duct tape to hold it all together.
The plan is that hopefully the Epsom salts will draw out the impurity and after a few days Poppy will be as good as new. If it doesn't work then the vet will have to be called out to puncture the hoof (but that has a much longer recovery time). Poor Poppy is in a lot of pain right now and her eyes looked panicky which was really sad, but my trainer will be keeping an eye on her and giving her lots of treats. The biggest concern right now is that since Poppy is still recovering from colicking that the pain from this will make her colic again, so she is getting lots and lots of food and treats to keep her eating and distracted from the pain.
How do you treat abscesses? At what point do you call the vet?