Horse Hoof Care
"No Hoof, No Horse!"
Keep your horse's hooves clean and dry.
One of the most basic parts of horse hoof care is picking out the mud, manure, stones and other debris from the sole of your horse's hooves. And yet, this one of the most neglect parts of horse care. Keeping your horse's hooves clean helps prevent common hoof ailments such as thrush. Sometimes your horse will get small stones that will lodge in the grooves of the frog, which can cause bruising. Picking out your horse's hooves also removes packed mud or snow, which can simply make it uncomfortable for your horse to walk. Cleaning your horse's feet will provide a better view to problems such as a puncture wound from something like a nail.
You will certainly hear or read from horsemen recommending you pick your horse's feet at least once daily, as well as before and after a ride. This is no doubt good advice, but in practical hoof care terms, don't go longer than a week without cleaning and inspecting your horse's hooves.
Keeping your horse's feet clean and dry as much as possible helps prevent thrush. The flooring of the stable should not be damp and allow for drainage. Also, your horse's paddock area should provide drainage to minimize the amount of time your horse has to stand in water and mud. Most of the moisture your horse's hooves need come from within the hoof itself and is provided by a healthy diet. Constant contact with wet conditions will promote rapid drying of the hooves cause them to start cracking and chipping.
Applying a hoof dressing can improve the moisture content of hooves and help prevent them from cracking. Massaging the hoof dressing on all parts of the hoof including the hoof wall, frog, heel and coronet can stimulate healthy new hoof growth. However, you should not apply hoof dressing too often as it can prevent the hooves from absorbing moisture naturally. It should also be noted hoof dressing is not a diet substitute for proper hoof care and the health of your horse's hooves.
In general, hooves need to be trimmed every six to eight weeks requiring the routine care of a professional farrier. The services of a reliable and experienced farrier are vital to helping keep your horse's hooves healthy. When choosing a farrier, ask other horse owners in your area and your veterinarian for a recommendation. Do not wait until you need a farrier before trying to find one. A good farrier is booked well in advanced, so you want to be sure your horse is scheduled for routine visits well in advance.
Your farrier can help you decide whether or not your horse needs to be shod. Horses subjected to lots of riding or work on hard terrain may need horseshoes or boots to protect their hooves. If your horse's hooves wear too much, the protective outer covering starts to be lost and the foot can become sensitive causing lameness. On the other hand, if your horse is more of a field ornament to be looked at or is only ridden occasionally then he most likely doesn't need to be shod. Regardless if your horse is shod or not, proper hoof care requires his hooves to be trimmed regularly to keep them shaped and leveled properly. An experienced farrier will ensure your horse's hooves are trimmed and shaped properly.
Unlike horses in the wild, domesticated horses need regular hoof trims. In the wild, a horse's feet wear down about the same rate as they grow. A domestic horse's hooves typically do not wear down as quickly since their hooves may be shod preventing them from wearing naturally, or simply because they are not subjected to such severe living conditions and consequently their feet grow faster than can be worn down.
A horse's hooves need to be properly trimmed. Without regular trimming, a horse's hooves will grow too long and can lead to hoof splitting, chipping, cracking and lameness. Long hooves can put your horse's leg limbs out of balance. Your horse's hooves need the help of a farrier to keep them at the correct length and shape. Hooves need to be trimmed so contact with the ground will be uniform and will not cause the hoof to chip or split. Shod horses especially need a farrier's attention on a regular basis due to hoof growth loosening the shoes and growing over the edge of the shoes.