How to apply a poultice

When I was at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair in Brandon, Manitoba, I poulticed my horse’s legs after extra strenuous days. If you’ve never applied a poultice before and you’re looking for some instruction and tips, keep reading.

How does it work?

Poultice draws heat out of the muscles and ligaments that run along the cannon bone. The cool clay treats suspensory heat, inflammation and shin soreness following rigorous exercise. At a horse show, most riders will put the poultice on at night and then remove it in the morning. The poultice goes on wet, and after several hours, the heat from the leg dries the clay. In the morning, you can chip the dry clay off with a sweat scraper and then rinse any residue away with a horse.

If your poultice is still damp in the morning, congratulations! Your horse had little to no heat in his legs.

TIP: Your poultice only needs to cover the ligaments that run along the sides and back of the cannon bone. Save poultice by leaving the front of the cannon bone bare. You also don’t need to poultice the fetlock unless you have specific cause to.

You will need

  • A poultice product of your choice
  • Brown paper or disposable shop towels
  • Quilt
  • Standing bandage
  • A bucket of cold water

Make sure your horse’s leg is clean and dry. Dip your hands in the water and then scoop up a palm-sized amount of poultice. Flatten it into a pancake and then press it onto your horse’s leg. The poultice will stick to the dry leg, but it won’t stick to your wet hands. Gently smooth the poultice out so it is 1/4 in. thick. Dip your hands in the water again and repeat. Cover the leg from the bottom of the knee to the top of the fetlock joint.

Once the leg is fully covered, wrap the leg with a layer of brown paper or a disposable towel. Smooth out any wrinkles, then cover with a quilt and bandage as you normally would. The purpose of the paper/towel is to keep your quilt clean.

Have you poulticed your horse’s legs before? Do you have any tips or advice? If so, please comment below.

3 thoughts on “How to apply a poultice

  1. *facepalm* please don’t run a mud poultice this way! It’s wrong wrong wrong!
    A) the consistency of the mud you are using is way too thick for leg mud. That is foot mud.
    B) Mud is applied to the leg by spreading it with the direction of the hair from just above the knee to just below the fetlock. Technically you can leave out the knee but it is silly to do so. Slapping the mud on in big thick pancakes like that is not only a big waste of very expensive mud, it’s almost totally ineffective. The mud only needs to be thick enough that the color of the hair cannot be seen through the mud. Anything beyond that is a waste.
    C) I didn’t get to see how the outer wrap was applied but that’s no way to wrap a quilt!! It must be rolled up before being applied to the leg. I literally make my living bandaging horses to keep them sound and I’m telling you right now, there is NO WAY, NO WAY AT ALL you are EVER going to keep even tension in your bandage by applying it loose like that! Even tension is so important when applying a standing bandage! Uneven tension is a great way to aggravate an existing injury or create a bandage bow.
    D) those inner quilts are WAY to long for that horse, they’re half way up his knee! The quilt should run from just even with the bottom of the fetlock to even with the bottom of the knee. If you want to bandage a knee you need to learn to spider bandage.

    • Thanks for your feedback Nicole. I will find a better video to share.

      Also, if you check the March 2014 issue of Practical Horseman, you’ll see they recommend applying a 1/2 inch thick layer of poultice. They also say the poultice only needs to be applied from the bottom of the hock/knee to the ankle.

      I was trained to use gentle, even pressure when wrapping quilts. I’ll do some research and see what the verdict is on wrapping them really tight.

  2. Pingback: 3 ways to guarantee an enjoyable show weekend | Dominion Veterinary Labs

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