How to Apply Hoof Support
The use of high density styrofoam as a means of hoof support has
gained considerable popularity. It is effective, safe, non-rigid,
economical and easy to apply. It can be used in acute or chronic
laminitis, severe foot bruising or to support the opposite limb
when one foot is severely injured (P3 fracture, puncture wound,
etc). The following procedure is the method that works best in our
In the case of laminitis—especially acute—excess toe is removed
from the dorsal hoof wall to decrease the lever arm effect on the
Two inch, dense styrofoam blocks, are cut in various sizes. An
appropriate size block is placed at the end of the frog and the
horse’s foot is placed on the block to create an impression.
The styrofoam is shaped using a foot rasp following the outline in
the block. The block is trimmed so one-half to one inch of the
styrofoam extends in front of the toe. This keeps the block from
being pushed back as the horse walks.
The block is held under the foot in the proper position and the
front of the block is rasped to follow the same angle as the
dorsal hoof wall. This eliminates a ledge so the block is easier
to attach with tape.
The styrofoam block is attached to the foot using crossed pieces
of duct tape as shown above.
Duct tape is applied horizontally so it contacts the block and the
lower portion of the hoof wall. It is necessary to apply two or
three strips of duct tape above the bulbs of the heel to hold the
block securely in place. Strips of duct tape are also placed
across the bottom of the block.
The horse is placed in a stall with a very thin layer of bedding
so the footing is firm. It usually takes 12 to 24 hours to crush
the styrofoam. The time required to crush the styrofoam also
depends on the weight of the horse. The crushed styrofoam forms a
mold of the bottom of the hoof.
The crushed piece of styrofoam is removed from the foot and hoof
testers are applied to the solar area in front of the frog to
locate the area of discomfort. It is important to do this so that
the styrofoam is not reapplied directly over the painful area.
The crushed piece of styrofoam is cut in a circular pattern to fit
just behind the area of discomfort, previously located with the
hoof testers. The crushed insert adds support to the caudal part
of the foot and provides mild heel elevation.
The crushed insert is placed in its original position and taped in
place with two cross pieces of duct tape. Using the original
technique, a second styrofoam block is now placed on top of the
crushed piece exactly as the first block was applied. It is not
unusual for this system to stay in place for 7 to 10 days. It can
be removed to inspect the bottom of the foot at any time and
easily is replaced. The horse is stalled on a thin bed of sawdust
or shavings, which provide firm footing and help to keep the foot