Duct tape is probably the most useful thing to have around a
ranch since bailing wire. Here's a useful application for duct
tape that you may not have thought of. (We first heard of this
idea from the farriers at the U.C. Davis Veterinary Teaching
Your horse comes up with a sore foot. You determine it is
due to an abscess, puncture, etc. which needs to be packed and
booted. You either don't have an easy boot around or you own Big
Foot and they don't make one in the size you need. You have duct
tape? No problem!!!
The art to making a duct tape easy boot is in assembling the
boot before you try to apply it to the horse. It needs to be
water tight and laying one out "on the hoof" is a struggle and
you risk leaving small gaps. The most efficient sequence of
events is this:
- Organize your duct tape, a small amount of
vetwrap, ointment and padding before you start.
- Assemble the easy boot (see the illustration).
- Completely clean the hoof, soaking if applicable.
- Completely dry the hoof and apply ointment.
- Pad the sole. (Newborn diapers work great!)
- Hold the pad in place with the minimum necessary
- Apply the easy boot, making "hospital corners"
where excess tape builds up around the heel bulbs.
- Tear off strips of tape and apply them across the
sole of the hoof to firmly secure the boot. Start at
the toe and work to the rear, lapping up the sidewalls
just short of the coronet band. Overlap each strip
slightly to double seal against moisture.
- The bottom should be completely sealed, but the
top side of the toe may look a bit ragged with all the
tape ends scattered about. Dress it up by applying a
couple of strips around the hoof, sealing any holes.
Does it work? You bet. We had to easy boot our Clyde mare
who got a front foot infected during all the California storms
and flooding. She's a big girl who has to have an outside run.
In addition to the problems associated with the wet weather, this
mare paws at mealtimes with the injured foot. The duct tape easy
boots lasted from 2 to 3 days and her sole remained clean and
dry, healing up much sooner than anticipated.
If your vet or farrier recommends a proper easy boot, by all
means follow their advice. If, however, you are in a spot and
have to improvise, you will be glad you clipped and saved this
How to Assemble a Duct Tape Easy Boot
Before you start, find a surface where you can lay out the
duct tape and form the boot, and still be able to remove it when
it is time to peel off the finished boot and apply it to the
foot. An old piece of plywood works well so long as it doesn't
shed large splinters when you pull the tape. The boot doesn't
have to be super-sticky when you apply it to the foot, so don't
worry if it loses some of its glue when you pull it.
Estimate the length from the middle of the toe to the middle
of the heel bulb. This will be your "vertical" measurement,
probably somewhere around 9 inches.
Estimate the length from the middle of the left sidewall to
the middle of the right sidewall. This will be your "horizontal"
measurement, probably somewhere around 7 inches. (Each horse is
different, so we can't provide any hard-and-fast measurements for
Run your first vertical strip down the plywood. Then,
intersecting at the top left corner, run your first horizontal
strip across. Then continue running back and forth, vertical,
then horizontal, creating a checkerboard pattern.
You will likely run out of vertical strips before you run
out of horizontal strips. Don't worry. Simply finish off the
bottom of the rectangle by applying horizontal strips over the
Complete the rectangle by alternating vertical and
horizontal strips. The number of strips will vary according to
the size of the hoof. The edges
may be a little ragged, which is no problem. The key point is not to
leave gaps or holes where the strips join together.
Applying Medication and Padding
In this example, we are cutting off enough of a newborn diaper to
cover the frog of the foot. The inside of the diaper is coated
with Ichthammol (or whatever medication is warranted). The idea
here is to provide clean padding, but not so much bulk that it
generates excess sole pressure.
In situations such as excised abscesses where there are holes cut
out of the sole of the hoof, the holes can be packed with medicated
cotton tufts or balls before the pad is put in place.
We place the diaper in the center of the hoof and fold over the
duct tape to hold it in place. We will stick the duct tape to the
hoof wall, not to the horse's hide.
The next step is to "round off" the edges to conform to the hoof.
Overlapping material will need to be folded. The idea here is to
avoid lumps or gaps in the duct tape covering. This arrangement will hold the
padding in place while you apply the easy boot. If a commercial easy boot is
not available, you can hold your duct tape boot in place with more
wraps of duct tape.
In this step we wrap duct tape around the hoof several times, passing
the tape over the shell of the hoof and then underneath the sole. We do not
wrap the tape around the leg or heel bulb as this could affect circulation.
Again, we will try to make smooth wraps free from large wrinkles.
Here is the finished product. The foot is protected and sealed. The medication
can work and pressure is somewhat disbursed across the sole of the foot.
While this arrangement may not be as desirable as a proper commercially
constructed easy boot, it will get you by in a pinch when you don't have a true
easy boot in the size that you need, or in the case of a horse which tends to tear off the hard plastic easy boots.
NOTE: For laminitic horses it's important to provide uniform support under the sole.
We tend to trace the hoof onto a sheet of heavy blue Styrofoam hardboard insulation; the kind that is used around windows. Then we trim the Styrofoam to the shape of the foot. This material may be hard to locate.
Currently Gene Ovnicek has made available pre-formed support pads that, like the hardboard styrofoam, will conform to the underside of the hoof and provide uniform support. This product can be viewed at
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