7 Things You Can Do to Make Your Horse’s Hooves Better
Hoof care is essential for all horse owners as it plays a crucial role in your horses’ overall health and well-being. A horse’s hooves are analogous to our fingernails or toenails but much larger and more complex. They support the horse’s weight, absorb shock, and provide traction on different surfaces. Neglecting hoof care can lead to various issues, including pain, lameness, and even permanent damage to the hooves.
Regular hoof care, including trimming, cleaning, and shoeing, can prevent common issues such as cracks, abscesses, and thrush. Hoof care also allows owners to identify any signs of lameness or disease early on, which can be crucial for prompt treatment and recovery.
In addition, healthy hooves are necessary for a horse to perform at its best. Horses with strong, healthy hooves are better equipped to engage in various activities like jumping, running, and trail riding.
- Provide proper nutrition: A horse’s hooves rely on a balanced diet to stay healthy. Ensure your horse receives adequate nutrients such as biotin, zinc, and copper, promoting hoof growth and strength. Make a note to look for other additives, such as B vitamins, and minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, and sodium. While vitamins may not improve your horse’s feet, a poor diet lacking in one of these ingredients will certainly worsen the overall condition of your horse’s feet. Nutrients are the building blocks on that strong, healthy feet are built.
- Keep the hooves clean: Regularly clean your horse’s hooves with a hoof pick to remove dirt and debris. Use a stiff brush to clean out the places that the hoof pick can’t reach. A product such as “Thrush Flush” should also be used to rinse the hoof and disinfect it. This will also give you the opportunity to check for any signs of injury or disease. Horses’ environments are full of bacteria and fungi that can easily colonize an uncared-for hoof, so constant vigilance is the key to keeping your horse’s hoof healthy. If signs of thrush or some other problem occur a product like “Thrush Thrash” can be used to treat it.
- Regularly trim the hooves: A farrier should trim your horse’s hooves every 6 to 8 weeks or as often as necessary based on your horse’s growth rate. This is extremely important in barefoot horses or horses that are not exercised a lot, such as retired, companion or breeding stock. Too long and neglected Hooves can chip curl or have pockets where bacteria and fungus can flourish, especially in wet conditions.
- Use proper shoeing techniques: If your horse needs shoes, ensure they are properly fitted and changed as necessary. Improper shoeing can alter the way a horse hits the ground. This can cause lameness and even hinder or change the way the hoof grows. An incorrectly fastened shoe can lead to the loss of a shoe which can damage the hoof and make it hard to reattach.
- Provide a clean and dry living environment: Horses that stand in wet, muddy conditions are at greater risk for developing hoof problems. Moisture allows microbes to grow like bacteria and fungi. While too-dry conditions can slow hoof growth and cause quality issues, too wet can be outright dangerous. Ensure your horse’s living environment is dry and clean.
- Use supplements: Some horse owners may find that supplements such as biotin or omega-3 fatty acids can help promote healthy hooves. Discuss supplement options with your veterinarian.
- Exercise your horse regularly: Regular exercise can improve circulation and promote healthy hoof growth. However, be mindful of the surface your horse is exercising on, as hard surfaces like pavement can be detrimental to hoof health. If you exercise your horse on hard, uneven, or rocky areas, altering the shoes to fit the conditions is very important. Certain boots and pads can also be utilized to protect the hoof.
Overall, proper hoof care is a critical part of responsible horse ownership, and it should be a priority for all horse owners to keep their horses happy and healthy.