Five Tips for Preventing Hoof Abscesses

Hoof abscesses are common problems, especially in wet conditions. They can stop your horse in his tracks and can be time-consuming and frustrating to treat. But there are steps you can take to keep your horse’s hooves strong and healthy.

1. Consistent hoof care

Whether your horse is shod or barefoot, regular care from a skilled farrier will help keep his hooves properly balanced. That helps prevent the excess pressure on certain areas of the hoof that can create bruises and lead to abscesses. Routine farrier care also can help you spot potential hoof problems early. And always keep a hoof pick handy to pick out debris in your horse’s hooves as part of his daily care.

2. Good nutrition

High-quality forage and an appropriate amount of properly fortified concentrates form a strong foundation for horse health. Remember that your horse’s nutritional needs can vary with age, activity level, and even pasture conditions: drought, different pasture plants, and the stage of growth the grass is experiencing all can affect the vitamins and minerals your horse gets. Assess your horse’s needs periodically to make sure his diet is serving his current needs, from the hooves up. Essential ingredients for his hooves will also benefit his coat and skin.

3. Supplement for strong, healthy hooves

One of the best ways to promote hoof health is through a proper diet. The protein keratin helps your horse’s hoof stay structurally sound and resilient. Supplementing with Ker-A-Form™ can ensure his diet is rich in essential nutrients like biotin, zinc, and methionine, which nourish and enhance a horse’s natural keratin, promoting strong hooves that can be more resistant to issues like abscesses.

4. Regular exercise

Regular exercise is essential for your horse’s good health overall. Movement also stimulates blood circulation within the hoof capsule, which is key to healthy hoof growth. As it circulates, the blood supply provides oxygen and nutrients to support tissues. Exercise also promotes correct hoof shape.

5. Avoid both very wet and very dry conditions

Damp, dirty or muddy conditions can be bad for hooves, but so can very dry conditions that lead to hoof cracks. Keep stalls clean and dry (bedding with wood shavings promotes dryness), and make sure your horse’s paddock is rock-free with shelters to allow him to stand out of the mud. Applying fly spray before turnout can also help prevent your horse from stamping his feet, which can contribute to cracking.

Symptoms and treatments

Horses with abscesses often appear dramatically and suddenly lame. A severe abscess might cause the lower leg to swell, but often lameness, rather than swelling, is the first visible sign of an abscess. If you suspect a hoof abscess:

  • Check for heat or a pulse in the hoof or hoof bulb.
  • If you are trained to use them, apply hoof testers to gently press on the hoof and sole.
  • Gently clean the hoof and check for a foreign object—but if an object is puncturing the frog, sole, or heel bulb, do not remove it. Call your veterinarian immediately.

If you think your horse might have a hoof abscess, call your veterinarian for a thorough exam, especially if you suspect the horse might have a puncture wound in his hoof or has an injury to the hoof wall, heel bulb, or coronary band. Treatment often will include soaking and packing the hoof until the abscess has resolved, or your veterinarian might drain the abscess.

Ker-A-Form Hoof and Coat Supplement

Treating an abscess can be time-consuming, so it’s worth using your feed, supplement, and exercise regimen to help prevent abscesses in your horse, from the inside out.


Ker-A-Form is a scientifically formulated coat and hoof supplement. The combination of ingredients found in Ker-A-Form supply the multiple nutrients necessary to support healthy skin, hair, and hooves.

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