There are many brands and types of hoof packing on the market with just as many reasons to need some. You can even look up recipes to make your own, if you're on a budget. The answer to your question depends on another question, namely, why do you need it?
What Do You Need the Hoof Packing to Do?
How often are you riding and where? There's hoof packing that will help pull moisture from soft hooves that live in warm, wet climates and some that add moisture and help soften hard, brittle feet.
If you just had your horse's shoes pulled for the winter or if your horse has a thin sole and is prone to stone bruising, a little hoof packing will add a bit of cushion and possibly make them more comfortable. I've read that some horse owners use hoof packing and moisturizers a couple days before their farrier visit, to soften up the hooves, making it easier on their farrier.
You can get medicated hoof packing to draw out an abscess or help treat thrush and white line disease. Mixing in Epsom salt will also help draw out any infection faster.
I've read that sugardine helps too, but I've never tried it. Sugardine is an old homemade remedy that's supposed to help with anything from abscesses to skin conditions. All you do is combine iodine and sugar to a paste like consistency. I've asked my clients about it and they all said they tried it once and found something else that works better. I'd love some feedback from anyone who's tried it, tested it and found that it works.
Another thing to think about is the temperature of the hoof packing. Most can be refrigerated or warmed up in a microwave. Cold helps lessen swelling and inflammation, hot draws out infection and increases blood flow.
How to Apply Hoof Packing
When you’ve found, or made, the hoof packing you need, you don't necessarily need shoes and pads to keep it in, unless your vet and farrier recommended them for more severe cases.
If you want to do it yourself, make sure the foot is clean and dry. Take a small amount of whatever you’re using, and apply it over the sole of the foot, getting into the clefts, too. How thick you apply it depends on the type of product you’re using, so check the directions.
Cover the packed foot in a diaper or maxi pads. Clean odd socks and old wash cloths will work too. Wrap it all with vet wrap and duct tape to help secure it. Avoid using duct tape on the coronary band.
Keep in mind, hooves need oxygen. You'll have to change the bandage often. Think of it like a cast or a bandage on you. When you take either off, your skin smells terrible and is wrinkly and lighter in colour. Your horse’s hooves need to breathe just like your skin needs to breathe.
If you have a question you’d like to ask a farrier (about horseshoeing, farriery, hoof and horse health, blacksmith tools, working as a farrier, etc.), email or leave it in the comments below. Every month, we’ll pick one question to answer in our feature.
Image credit: Birgit Forest Smith