The term poultice is derived from a Latin word for porridge. In the equine world, poultices are applied for the relief of localized pain, when caused by inflammation.
It is predominantly used on the lower legs of horses to benefit tendons, joints and ligaments. A hoof may be poulticed if there has been a traumatic injury, bruising and if abscesses arise. When utilizing a poultice for therapy, the goal is to reduce heat, inflammation and to aid in the healing process. The least amount of time an area is stressed by these elements the less damage there will be and the more it will aid in the longevity of your horse’s career.
The most prevalent type of poulticing is termed “cold” therapy and is composed of clays and bentonites. This application would minimize the inflammatory response to an early injury or overworked legs, and act as a pain reliever. For application, wet your hands and splash cold water on the injured site. Spread ¼ to ½ inch of poultice onto anywhere you feel heat or swelling. If wounds are present alternative care may be needed. Cover the poulticed area with wet brown paper. Follow up by wrapping with wet cotton or bandages. The longer the poultice remains cool and wet the better it will draw heat and inflammation. Overnight application or longer is an option, maybe for that trailer ride home. Once you are ready to remove the wraps let the poultice dry fully. As it dries it will continue to pull excess fluid and heat. Brush the leg and follow with a cold water flush or bath. Cold water is an excellent tool for reducing heat and inflammation.
A “hot” or “sweat wrap” poultice will dilate the superficial blood vessels to draw the blood from a congested and inflamed area. This type of poulticing is helpful for arthritis and old injuries that are cold to the touch.
Application would be to apply a poultice or a liniment, cellophane wrap and then a cotton bandage. This type of wrapping will keep the area heated; thus it would not benefit a new injury.
To do an application for a hoof poultice place ½ inch of poultice in a boot. Pour a little water in the boot then insert the foot. Poultice the coronet band and pastern area, wrap using cellophane, wet cotton and bandages. For best results keep poultice on for 24 hours.
Poultices when properly applied are extremely soothing to the legs, aid in healing and are very effective for combating leg fatigue.
This tip was brought to you by KAM Animal Services, home of KAM’s “Equine Learning Circle” FREE webinars, which take place monthly. Go to www.kamanimalservices.com to sign up for the next webinar. Upcoming webinars include “Get It in Writing” on May 16 and “Electrolytes, Detoxing and First Aid” on June 13. These webinars will conclude with a question and answer session, so be ready with your questions!