One of the most common treatments many horse owners perform is soaking their horse’s feet. This treatment has been recommended for decades for many conditions that affect the horse’s foot, such as abscesses, bruising, founder, puncture wounds, and anything else that might be a possible foot problem. Dr. Steve O’Grady, a veterinarian that specializes in foot problems, indicates there is no scientific evidence indicating that soaking the foot actually helps in any of these cases. However, soaking can cause some problems, especially if soaking is continued for more than a couple of days. Dr. O’Grady indicates excessive moisture damages the hoof wall. This moisture causes the hoof wall to soften and then the wall deteriorates and this loss of integrity allows the wall to expand outward. When this occurs the white line, which is the junction of the sole and hoof wall, becomes wider and allows the sole to drop lower and gets closer to the ground. When the horse starts walking on this soft and dropped sole, the horse becomes sore, and all of this was caused by soaking the foot too much. Dr. O’Grady believes soaking the foot can actually decrease healing of abscesses, which is a common reason for soaking in the first place.
For these reasons, in our practice we do not soak feet. If we need to soften a really hard and dry sole to open a suspected abscess, we wrap the foot in a human baby diaper for 48 hours in a poultice pad called Animalintex. After that period, the hoof is kept dry to prevent any damage to it. So next time before you start soaking your horse’s foot, remember you may be doing more harm than good.