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.