Sunday, January 01, 2006

A Nail in the Hoof

When you find an old nail in a horse pasture, you probably cringe at the thought of the damage it could do. I've always feared a nail in the hoof, but until the other day, had never witnessed it happening.
Mo-- our tall, fleabitten Arabian mare-- had just been turned out and was tossing her head as she galloped across the pasture. She was running, and then suddenly she stopped and came up drastically lame. She was almost hopping on three legs. My sister got a halter on her and lifted her hoof, and saw a slightly twisted nail protruding from the tip of Mo's frog. I was up the hill from where the pasture was when I heard her yelling for me. I grabbed pliers and ran down to take a look.

I took Mo's leg and saw that the nail was deep into her hoof-- because of her galloping, it had been driven in. It wasn't a small nail as I had expected- it was an older, thick 16-penny nail and it looked nasty. I dreaded that some vital spot had been injured, or that she'd come down with a terrible infection at having this dirty thing driven so far into her. It looked very painful and I was worried I'd hurt her

I kept her hoof in the air so the nail wouldn't go in further. I hadn't ever delt with a situation like this before, so I didn't know if I should clip the nail off first, or just pull the whole thing out, or how the horse would react. I decided just to go for it and yank it out with the pliers. I braced myself incase Mo struggled, but she seemed to be very glad that someone had noticed her injury and was helping. I gripped the nail and she flinched, but she didn't move as I quickly yanked it out. It was like pulling a nail from soft wood. Instantly a thick, bright crimson flood washed over her hoof, and onto the sleeve of my arm. It slowed within a few seconds and stopped. I cleaned her hoof out (my sister brought the materials while I held it up), washed the surface, then placed her hoof over a diaper and padded the sole with duct tape.

Diapers make wonderful hoof bandages, and I've used them in the past for abcesses. I walked her up the road to her stall, and she made a remarkable improvement. The first few steps were shaky, but as she walked she seemed to get better right away and only showed a trace of a limp.We called the vet to get some Penicillin, and they recommended that she also have a tetanus shot.Because the tetanus was given in the neck-- and because such a large dose of Penicillin was perscribed-- I had to give the penicillin in the rump. I always give shots in the neck, because for me it's easier, but I wiped the muscle in her hindquarters down with alcohol and got ready to administer the 25ccs of penicillin. She is always a little nervous at having shots; she doesn't act bad, but she sometimes flinches or jumps when she's poked. When I placed the needle in, I unfortunately hit a vein and the blood slowly dripped out of the end of the needle. Poor Mo had to endure another jab to the rear before I got the needle placed well and gave her the penicillin.
After a few days of Penicillin and hoof bandaging, she was mostly healed, and now it's been over a week and there is no sign of lameness and she's all better.
An injury like that, however, can lead to infection, but since we caught it right away and treated it, Mo was fine.


  • I'm so glad you got the nail out! Poor Mo!!!!!!!!!!

    By Anonymous dancer, at 5:20 PM, January 12, 2006  

  • I am always careful to make sure the area where I ride and train horses is free of dangerous items that could hurt their feet. However, this is not practical on the trail and areas that I do not maintain. I hope this never happens to one of my horses but if it does I sure hope my horse and I can have as much composure as you had. Nice job.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:43 PM, January 15, 2006  

  • Although you have not had any problems you were very lucky. You should never remove a nail and always call a vet to see the foot first before removal. The reason for this is that fact that once a nail is pulled out the vet will not know how deep it went and what it has hit. By leaving it in the vet can assess the situation, where mo had the nail it could have hit the pedal or navicular bone and the deep flexor tendon. A vet will usually x-ray if they think there is any risk and then they can see exactly what parts the nail has hit and treat it correctly. As a nail is pulled out the hole closes and so any dirt and debris are left inside, a vet will parr this hole open to allow for drainage and then you would be asked to poultice the foot in most circumstances. A nail injury can cause all kinds of problems, although it's tempting to pull the nail out please always call the vet!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:03 AM, October 10, 2007  

  • Definately clip the nail off, so it doesn't get driven farther in, but leave it in so a vet can x-ray. Also, a week out is not far enough out to know if you are in the clear! You should administer antibiotics for at least a weekas well as soaking the hoof evryday for at least 3 days, poulticing, and wrapping the foot so no debris is packed in the site, and then after about a week of that (depending on how severe)you should continue to pick the foot at, least twice daily to keep the foot as clean as possible. Shavings are a good way to help keep manure and mud from the injury. An infection can take weeks to develop into an abscess, so diligent care is an absolute must. GOOD LUCK.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:50 PM, March 05, 2009  

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