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By Eleanor Blazer
On the Adriatic Sea lies the city of Venice, Italy. For centuries it has been a port through which exotic products such as silk, porcelain, spices, gems, wine and Venetian turpentine have been exported.
"Venetian turpentine?" you ask.
Yes, the honey colored, sticky substance you put on your horse's hooves derives its name from Venice, Italy.
Venice or Venetian turpentine is made from the sap of the European larch tree (larix decidua), which is native to central Europe, the Alps, the Carpathians and Poland. It has also been successfully cultivated in northern regions of North America.
Venice turpentine is used on horses' hooves to toughen the sole. It creates a barrier to protect against moisture.
Soft soles are caused by too much moisture. Horses standing in mud or wet stalls are prone to this condition. Other causes are applying too much hoof conditioner, over soaking hooves (to treat another condition - such as an abscess) and wearing pads.
In order to apply the product the sole must be clean.
Start by using a hoof pick to remove the bulk of the imbedded dirt. Follow with a brush to remove for the small particles left behind. Spray a solution of 50% bleach and 50% water on the sole to kill bacteria.
Without letting the hoof touch the ground, apply the turpentine to the sole with a hoof applicator brush or old toothbrush. Many people will then apply a piece of heavy brown paper that is cut slightly bigger than the hoof directly to the sole. This keeps dirt from sticking to the product, and will protect your mat or floor from getting too much of the sticky turpentine on it. The paper doesn't stay on long, but will offer some protection.
Continue to treat the soles daily until the horse is sound. Each application will add to the previous layer until a substantial barrier is built up.
Venice turpentine should not be applied to the frog, the bulbs of the hoof, to the coronet band or above it.
The frog (the "v" shaped portion of the bottom of a horse's hoof) is designed to be dynamic. It flexes as the hoof hits the ground - absorbing shock. The bulbs also are flexible and should not be hardened.
Venice turpentine is a counter-irritant. Counter-irritants create inflammation on the skin surface in an effort to draw healing properties to underlying muscles or joints. Avoid getting Venice turpentine on and above the sensitive coronet band because this will cause discomfort and needless pain to the horse.
When shopping for pure Venice turpentine beware of imitation or artificial products. Look for products that state they are 100% Venice turpentine.
However, there are commercial products that may use a blend of Venice turpentine, iodine, acetone or other ingredients. These products will also work toward hardening the sole.
While Venice turpentine will toughen your horse's soles - management is the key. Mud and excessive moisture will lead to long-term problems that no exotic import from Italia will cure. The ground upon which your horse is standing must be changed to create a healthier environment.
Consult with your farrier and veterinarian for proper hoof care techniques.