(HORSES/FARM ANIMAL CARE) Among equestrians there is an old saying, “no foot, no horse.” The phrase reminds us that we must always take exceptional care of our horse’s hooves. Whether you are reading this article from the sunny oasis of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) or snowed in at your farm, the following can help you maintain your horse’s hooves.
1. Pick out your horse’s hooves multiple times a day.
Before turnout, after turnout — anytime your horse leaves the stall — before riding, and after riding you should pick out your horse’s hooves. Use a hoof pick to remove any stones or small objects that are lodged in its feet. Also use the hoof pick’s stiff brush to carefully remove debris from your horse’s frog.
2. Check for hoof damage every day.
This tip goes hand-in-hand with tip number one. When picking out your horse’s hooves, always be on the lookout for any damage, such as: thrush, punctures, cracks, abscesses or loose shoes. See below:
- Thrush — Thrush is a bacterial condition that produces a foul smell and can ooze a dark substance from or around the frog.
- Puncture — A puncture can occur when a sharp object pierces through your horse’s sole and then falls out. Most equestrians will call their local vet when their horse’s sole has been punctured. A veterinarian is trained to advise a course of treatment for the puncture.
- Cracks — Cracks can be superficial or lead to additional problems. Make a note of any cracks and be sure to discuss the condition with your farrier at your horse’s next scheduled shoeing.
- Abscess — An abscess is an infection inside your horse’s hoof and can sometimes be treated with a Betadine and Epsom salt soak; however, if your horse has an abscess you should also call a vet to determine a course of treatment.
- Loose Shoes — Loose shoes or loose nails can be dangerous to your horse, potentially causing damage to its hoof. If you have any doubts about the integrity of the shoe, you can ask your farrier to examine the shoe. You should also check to see if your horse’s hoof is hot to the touch or has a throbbing pulse. Heat or throbbing in the hoof may be indicative of a more serious hoof issue.
3. Put your horse on a shoeing or trimming schedule with your trusted farrier.
While many equestrians opt for a four- to six-week shoeing schedule, there is no standard interval for trimming or shoeing a horse. Your farrier will work with your horse to determine the best shoeing or trimming schedule. Regular hoof maintenance can help keep your horse’s hooves healthy.
4. Ask your farrier to teach you how to remove a loose shoe.
All too often horses will pull their shoes. A partially pulled or sprung shoe can be painful, possibly damaging the hoof. In these instances it might be necessary for you to remove the shoe — however, you should only remove the shoe if a licensed farrier has taught you the proper techniques. Incorrectly removing a shoe could lead to further hoof damage.
5. Maintain hoof moisture.
A healthy horse hoof will have the correct amount of moisture. Wet weather, too many baths, and muddy paddocks can cause a horse’s hooves to soften. Similarly, dry or hot weather can cause a brittle hoof. Applying a topical conditioner or hoof paint can help your horse maintain the proper moisture. The next time your farrier is working on your horse’s hooves, ask about the wide variety of hoof conditioners available. Choosing the right moisturizing treatment can depend on the condition of your horse’s hooves, turnout footing, level of work and local weather.
Proper hoof care can greatly improve the quality of your horse’s well-being. Daily cleaning, regular farrier visits and monitoring the health of the hooves are all important steps. When it comes to your horse, remember the old saying, “no foot, no horse,” and be sure to take great care of your equine partner’s hooves.
Ashly Snell works in Marketing at Dover Saddlery. Aside from being with Dover, Ashly also has been an avid equestrian for 20 years.