The hooves on horses are responsible for carrying their weight as well as the load they are carrying. For this reason, horse hoof care is vital. Many different hoof problems can occur in horses, and so it is essential to look after their hooves appropriately to solve and prevent long-lasting issues. Care for horse hooves changes depending on the time of year. In the summer, hooves should be trimmed at least every six to eight weeks or as often as needed, keeping them healthy and comfortable for horses to walk with. In the winter, the hooves generally grow slower, and so longer intervals can be left between trimming. Overall the amount of trimming times depends on the horse and the rate the hoof growth.
Hoof balance is also essential as it allows the horse to move better, applying less stress and strain on their bones, tendons and ligaments. An ideal horse foot will have a slight hoof-pastern angle, adequate heel support, an easy break-over and medial, lateral balance. Weather conditions also play a significant role in horse hoof care and can cause damage to the hooves. During the dryer months, with frequent changes from wet to dry, horses are prone to having dry and brittle feet which is subject to easily developing hoof cracks. Leaving a prolonged time between trimming can cause elongated toes. The hoof will then, in most cases, develop cracks due to the unsupported hoof wall. With this in mind, here’s a look at five tips for essential horse hoof care.
1. Know your horse's hooves
Although this may sound quite obvious, it’s good practice to examine your horse’s hooves regularly. By doing so, you will be able to recognize if something is wrong and solve the issue quicker. By simply picking up your horse’s hooves daily, you will be able to notice right away if there is a problem. You will be able to identify issues such as thrush development, a crack in the hoof, loose shoes or a wedged stone which might be causing irritation. By not looking at your horse’s hooves frequently, you are risking letting minor problems grow into more troublesome severe issues. Using a Hoofjack hoof stand can be a great way to get a proper look at what’s going on, and makes the daily process much more comfortable for your horse.
2. Keep a regular Farrier scheduled
Keep in mind that there is not a schedule that works for every horse, but having a Ferrier booked to come out every 6-8 weeks to trim your horse’s hooves is good practice. If your Ferrier feels that your horse must be trimmed every 6-8 weeks then try and refrain from pushing the appointment back even by a week. This can be a severe issue for horses with conditions such as clubfoot. It is vital for them to get the care they need. However, if you are experienced at trimming your own horse’s hooves then scheduling a Farrier to come over and double-check your work now and then is also a good idea. When trimming your horse’s hoofs using a RASP is a must to file down and evenly shape the hoof. The Heller Black Master is one of the best and is a finely toothed rasp which works exceptionally well with hard, dry hooves.
3. Proper nutrition to prevent hoof problems
It is essential for horses to get proper nutrition to maintain good hoof health. In some cases, some horses naturally have healthier hooves than others. However, maintain a proper diet and ensuring adequate nutrition will undoubtedly help your horse grow healthiest hooves as possible. It is advised to consult your vet on this matter to determine if your horse needs supplements added to its diet. In some cases, horses may benefit from hoof supplements which are specially formulated with biotin, which helps to improve hoof health.
4. Considering your horse's turnout options
Horses are the happiest out and about, but during the warmer months, your horse is susceptible to dewey pastures, especially in the night and pestering flies during the day. In the night, the moisture in the grass can cause your horse’s hooves to soften. During the day the flies can also cause your horse to stomp. This change in dry and wet conditions can potentially lead to your horse’s hooves to crack and split. It can also cause nails in shoes to loosen. To avoid this from happening, reducing turn out time can help your horses’ hooves recover. It’s also important to consider not turning your horse out in deep muddy footing. These types of conditions can encourage infections such as thrush in the hoof. Treating thrush in hooves can be easy, but prevention is always better than cure.
5. Hoof protection during exercise and hauling
By making your horse carry out constant exercise, you are helping your horse’s hooves as it improves circulation to the hoof and helps to promote new growth. When hauling, it is imperative to protect your horse’s hooves. As you know roads can be bumpy and if your horse stumbles while trying to catch their balance in a trailer they can potentially cut their legs and hooves. For this reason, using wraps and bell boots or even shipping boots can help protect your horse from causing damage.