Ever heard the saying, “No hoof, no horse?” If a horse’s hooves lack care on a regular basis and the horse isn’t being properly fed, riding is not going to be possible. Hoof care and maintenance isn’t just every six to eight weeks when the horse is due for a trim or shod, hooves should be checked, handled and cared for daily.
DAILY CLEANING IS HOOF CARE
Cleaning out hooves daily not only keeps debris out, but it also gives you an idea of how your horses hooves look every day. In addition, checking your horse’s shoes daily helps them stay sound if one comes off or begins to loosen. Say you cleaned his/her left hind hoof yesterday — the sole looked solid with no soft spots or bruising, however today you see your horse limping on its left hind. No matter what the issue, whether it be a rock stuck next to the frog, a cut on the heel, an abscess that has blown out the hoof wall or even a torn hoof wall, catching it quickly is ideal and allows you to treat before the wound is unmanageable. A horse trying to walk on a hurt hoof, is like us trying to walk just after we twisted our ankle. The sooner you can provide proper hoof care, the better.
Another reason for daily hoof care and cleaning is thrush prevention. Thrush is a fungal infection that will rot away the hoof. It is black, has a foul-smelling odor and attacks the frog and clefts (or grooves) on either side of the frog. It is easily treatable, unless it is left for an extensive amount of time. If ignored, it will get into the deeper tissues of the hoof, causing lameness or permanent damage. This bacterium thrives in damp areas away from air. If your horse lives where his/her hooves are constantly on a wet surface, or in an area that isn’t properly cleaned, the likelihood of them contracting thrush is much higher. If possible, try rotating your horse to drier pastures if their current condition becomes excessively mucky. If your horse does contract thrush, we recommend using a thrush treatment product designed to attack and dry thrush. Clean the hooves daily and treat as the applications instruct. In addition, if the horse is in mud, try to move them to a dryer area as this will assist with getting rid of the thrush.
On the other hand, horses hooves can become very dry and brittle during the sunny summer days. You can apply a hoof moisturizer to keep the hooves soft. We recommend a hoof conditioner that prevents cracking, splitting and contracted heels. If your horse loses shoes quite often, or the hooves look cracked, consult with your veterinarian on a treatment plan to improve your horse’s hooves back to great working condition.
WHAT YOU FEED IS HOOF CARE
Feeding for hoof care is just as important. A diet that is a proper balance of nutrients and minerals is key. Feeding your horse plenty of good quality forage helps ensure proper hoof growth. If need be, you can add a supplement that contains biotin to the diet. Exercise caution on how much you give your horse and consult your veterinarian for assistance on selecting the right supplement, especially if your horse has any special needs. You can also check with your veterinarian if you are concerned about how much forage, grain and supplements you are feeding.
EXERCISE IS HOOF CARE
Lastly, exercise is another great way to provide hoof care as well as encourage hoof growth, strength and health. Moving the horse, even at a walk, stimulates blood flow in the hooves. Horses in the pasture — rather than standing in a stall 24/7 — helps immensely with blood flow. If your horse has experienced a hoof injury, it is extremely important to check with your farrier or veterinarian on how much exercise to give your horse.
Horses need our help to take care of them day-in and day-out. To help them perform at their best, we must take care of them the best way we can, by gaining knowledge and using it. For more information, or to discuss your equine questions further, visit Grange Co-op to speak with one of our Grange Experts.