FAQ #13 Why does a horse get nail-quicked?

Hoof wall thicknesses vary. There is a very small margin for error. The farrier must pay close attention to selecting and driving each nail.  Not all nails are manufactured perfectly, and misshapen nails might not drive straight.

However, nail quicking isn’t the only kind of quicking that can affect a horse – he can also be quicked and become lame if his sole is trimmed too close.  There’s a great tendency for inexperienced farriers (and owners) to think that you get more of your money’s worth by trimming more so you don’t have to trim so often.  This  may also happen to a pet horse or harness racehorse when people think a shorter foot helps the horse move faster.  Doing this doesn’t leave enough protection for the horse’s foot – he may break over easier, but he won’t move as well.

The thinned sole does not offer enough protection for the hoof’s more sensitive inner structures, and lameness is the result.  The worst problem of quicking from trimming too short is abscessing, whether from an infected deep cut or from a bruise.  A quicked horse can bruise the sensitive solar corium or the bone, especially in a rocky area, because his protection from the sole is greatly decreased.  The resulting abscess is usually infected with “Clostridia” bacteria, which produce gas that puts pressure on sensitive areas.

Treating a quicked horse depends on the extent of the injury.  If it’s severe, call your veterinarian.  For minor wounds, treat conservatively.  If he’s bleeding, use a disinfectant and cover it with duct tape and a clean towel, gauze or a disposable diaper to keep more infection from getting in.  When it begins to heal, cover it with a pad.

If you cover a bleeding wound without treating it, it will often abscess.  If it does abscess, it’s important to have a professional open up an abscess to drain.  Then you can use Epsom salts paste or a 20% ichthammol black salve to draw the infection and swelling out of a minor abscess.

A pad is probably the best remedy to protect the tender foot until the horse grows more sole for protection.  But take the pads off as soon as you can so the horse doesn’t get dependent upon them.  You can give him Bute for a few days so he is comfortable enough to eat and move around, but the concern then is that because he doesn’t hurt as much, he may cause more damage to the thin sole.

You can also put turpentine or Venice turpentine on the normal or quicked sole to toughen it, but be careful not to spill it on skin because it will burn.

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