You can keep your horse’s foundation healthy by providing it with frequent and regular hoof care. Environment, weather, terrain, horseshoes, heredity, turnout frequency, and nutrition all impact your horse’s hoof health. Fortunately, there are some simple ways that you can address this area of your horse’s care. Here are five basic tips for keeping your horse’s hooves healthy.
Properly Clean Your Horse’s Hooves
One of the best and most important things that you can do for your horse’s hoof health is to clean their hooves daily. Before and after each ride or after bringing your horse in for the night, pick out their feet and check for any developing issues. Clean your horse’s hooves, pry out packed debris, gently clear out the crevice of the frog, and brush the surface of the hoof with a stiff brush. As you do this, look for signs of potential issues such as thrush, abscesses, cracks, and punctures. If you notice any of these problems, contact your farrier or veterinarian for assistance.
Choosing Between Shod and Barefoot
Making the choice to have your horse go shod or barefoot should depend on several factors. These include the condition of your horse’s hooves, your environment, and your personal preferences. Horses with healthy hooves may be able to forgo shoes and quickly adapt to being unshod. On the other hand, a horse that has weak hoof structure or that is involved in equine sports will generally benefit from being shod. Also, horses that spend most of their time in wet environments may not develop tough enough hooves to go barefoot without damage.
Maintain Proper Moisture as the Seasons Change
Depending on where you live and the climate, seasonal changes may create moisture issues with your horse’s hoofs. The main concern is preventing the softening of hooves in wet weather and dry or cracked hooves in dry weather. During dry weather, apply a hoof moisturizer to the sole and hoof wall to prevent cracking. During wet weather, consider using a hoof sealant to keep moisture out.
Keep Your Horse Active
Activity and exercise are important elements to hoof health. Exercise promotes growth and strength, so keeping your horse active as much as possible year round is one more way that you can keep them healthy. If you have access to an open field or pasture, play games with your horse. Otherwise, exercise your horse in a paddock using a lunge line.
Maintain Hoof Health with Proper Nutrition
Maintaining proper nutrition for your horse can help alleviate many common hoof problems. Horses should receive quality hay to supplement the right levels of vitamins and minerals in their system. They should also have access to clean water at all times. When a horse has hoof problems, some commercially available products have been proven to improve hoof health. These products contain zinc (up to 250 mg/day), biotin (20 mg/day), and methionine (2500 mg/day).
While these basic hoof care tips can keep your horse’s foundation healthy, most horses will encounter a variety of hoof issues over their lifetime. This is why it’s important to maintain a good working relationship with a local veterinarian or farrier should problems arise. These are just a few of the best practices that will help keep your horse’s hooves healthy. What works for you?