Most horse owners would do just about anything in their power to make sure their horse is well taken care of and in good health. The proper care of the hoof is a critical to the horse’s overall health and well-being. Here are 5 tips that can help ensure that you are taking good care of your equine partner’s feet!
- Pick out their feet regularly
Picking out your horse’s feet on a regular bases is not just a chore, but is an excellent way for you to help ensure that nothing gets stuck in your horse’s foot. This time can be spent establishing what is normal for your horse’s foot, in order to quickly and effectively determine if something is out of the normal that may need you to take action. Due to the slow growth of the hoof, about 1 cm per month, it is important that any health concern be caught early.
- Establish what is normal
When establishing what is normal for your horse you can make note of several aspects of your horse’s foot. It is also important to establish the normal pulse strength and rhythm for your horse.
- A healthy hoof can occasionally feel warm or hot to the touch, however if the hoof is warm for an extended period of time, this may be an indication that there is a problem. One should only worry if the hooves reach a temperature at or above 91.4° F (33°C) for several hours
- If your horse has a black foot, colour can be difficult to notice, however any discolouration on the hoof wall or sole can be an indication of bruising. It may be an isolated incident or an indication of a larger problem
- The hoof will naturally grow evenly spaced rings with a slight curve downward at the quarters are an indication of growth. If these rings should begin to shift in pattern such as curving up, this could be an indication of poor health.
- Another common sign to notice in your horses hoof is to notice if the hoof is beginning to dish at the toe, this can be sign of laminitis or founder
- The texture of the hoof wall, sole and frog are all indications of good health. A healthy wall is smooth and glossy, free from cracks. The sole should be relatively smooth, but some flakiness is the natural process of shedding extra growth. The frog should feel durable and rubbery
- It is important to note both the strength and pace of the digital pulse (found on the back of the pastern). This can help you identify if there has been a change and to provide information of your horse’s normal to the vet so that they can better treat your horse if there is an emergency situation
- Establish what is NOT normal
Having an understanding of common hoof ailments can help you identify if there is a problem with the hoof before the disease or problem progresses too far. Although your trimmer will likely be able to identify if any of these problems are occurring, you are the one who sees your horse on a regular basis! Thrush, punctures, cracks, obsesses, laminitis and founder are all relatively common ailments that can be avoided when you know what signs to look for. For detailed description of these, please check out my post on Common Hoof Ailments.
- Help them grow their feet
In addition to making sure that any ailment of inconsistency is addressed early and correctly, it is important for you to provide the correct conditions for your horse to grow and wear their hoof in the most natural and correct way.
In the wild the horse will encounter a variety of footings, is important that the domestic horse can have a replication of this in one form or another. For example in the wild, the horse would have to walk in mud and water in order to get a drink. Occasionally flooding your horse’s trough to stimulate this can give your horse the opportunity to soak their feet, and help maintain their moisture levels. While it is important to provide mud, it is also important to provide hard ground, so that excess growth can wear and ship away.
Movement is important for the healthy functioning of the hoof, by allowing your horse to be out on pasture moving around you are helping them to correctly grow their feet!
Providing your horse the correct diet and nutrition can help to aid the horse in correct horn growth. The horse’s hoof is a metabolic organ, that aids in filtering the blood and horn is grown out of waste and protein excretion. If the horse has an imbalance or sudden influx or change in diet, it can negatively impact their hoof condition.
- Book regular trims
As the owner it is critical for you to take ownership and responsibility over the condition of your horse’s feet. Combining correct day to day management with regular and proper trims will further aid in your horse’s health. Trimming schedules can vary from 4-8 weeks depending on the condition and purpose of your horse. The trimming schedule can also be impacted by the season, the hoof will produce more horn in the summer months.
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