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 practice.

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In the case of laminitis—especially acute—excess toe is removed from the dorsal hoof wall to decrease the lever arm effect on the lamina.


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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.

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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.


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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.

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The styrofoam block is attached to the foot using crossed pieces of duct tape as shown above.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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 dry.

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