Soaking your horse’s hoof or foot is a basic and simple skill. It is commonly performed to treat sole abscesses and sole bruises. It is also commonly performed after removing a foreign body to “draw out” infectious agents.
Ideally, the shoe is pulled, but this is not always practical.
The first time you do this, you should clean the hoof by picking it carefully. Then scrub the whole hoof with povidone iodine or chlorhexidine scrub, using a stiff brush. Rinse well and repeat. You now are ready to soak the hoof.
Depending on the supplies you have at hand, you can perform this skill either using a shallow rubber pan or a plastic bag. In either case, halter the horse and have your assistant at their head.
RUBBER PAN. Add 6 inches of hot water to a wide and shallow flat-bottomed rubber feed pan, about as hot as you feel your horse can stand. Add 1 cup Epson Salts (magnesium sulfate) and about 2 ounces of povidone-iodine solution to the water. Mix it. Lift the horse's foot, push the pan under their foot and slowly lower their foot into the water. If necessary you may need to hold up the opposite limb.
PLASTIC IV FLUID BAG. If you do not have a rubber feed pan, you can use a heavy 5 liter fluid bag discarded by your vet or any other thick plastic bags. Ask your vet to save a few of these bags for you if you have lots of horses and might need to perform this skill frequently.
Add 1 cup of Epsom salts to the bag, and 1-2 oz povidone iodine solution. Have hot water in a container ready to pour into the bag. Lift your horse’s foot and place it completely into the dry bag. Now pour hot water into the rear of the bag. Use several strips of duct tape to secure the top of the bag to your horse’s leg. If possible, work on a rubber mat to prevent your horse from walking on (and puncturing) the bag.
Either way, the water should immerse the hoof to a level above the coronet band. The water temperature should be about as hot as bath water and cooled as needed for your horse to tolerate it. Soak your horse's foot for 10-15 minutes.
Tips for safety & Success
Some horses resist this procedure but they can usually be easily taught to accept it in the same way they are taught to accept any other procedure - make standing quietly in the soak easier than the alternative.
The water should immerse the hoof to a level above the coronet band. The water temperature should be about as hot as bath water and cooled as needed for your horse to tolerate it. Soak your horse's foot for 10-15 minutes.