KBR Quick Tip

More Fun with Duct Tape

A Quick & Easy Easy Boot

1995, Willis & Sharon Lamm

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 Hospital.)

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:

  1. Organize your duct tape, a small amount of vetwrap, ointment and padding before you start.

  2. Assemble the easy boot (see the illustration).

  3. Completely clean the hoof, soaking if applicable.

  4. Completely dry the hoof and apply ointment.

  5. Pad the sole. (Newborn diapers work great!)

  6. Hold the pad in place with the minimum necessary vetwrap.

  7. Apply the easy boot, making "hospital corners" where excess tape builds up around the heel bulbs.

  8. 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.

  9. 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 Quick Tip.

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 you.)

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 vertical ones.

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 shopedss.com.

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KBR Quick Tips, 1995 Lamm's Kickin' Back Ranch and Willis & Sharon Lamm. All rights reserved. Duplication of any of this material for commercial use is prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached.
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