HOW TO SUPPORT HEALTHY HOOF GROWTH
If you’ve been anxiously waiting for a crack in your horse’s hoof to grow out, you may need to be a little more patient in the months ahead. Hoof wall is typically produced at a much slower rate in the fall and winter months than in summer. That doesn’t mean you can’t support healthy hoof growth during this period, though. In fact, it may be more important than ever. Here are four ways to improve the quality of your horse’s hooves in the months ahead.
1. Provide as much exercise as possible. Movement increases blood flow, encouraging growth and providing “feedback” for the horn that does grow to come in strong. If you ride less often in the winter, remember that turnout is just as beneficial---and with proper blankets and shelter, even a clipped horse can stay warm in frigid weather.
2. Keep his nutrition on track. Most commercial feed products provide the necessary nutrition for average horses and those at specific life stages or activity levels. If your horse is on a primarily forage-based diet, buy the best quality hay you can find to replace the nutrition lost when grazing is no longer available. If you are unable to consistently secure good hay, talk to your veterinarian about using a “balancer” pellet that can provide needed nutrition without unneeded calories. 3. Consider a supplement. The nutrient biotin has been shown to encourage hoof growth and improve horn quality. Many biotin supplements are available. Look for one with a comprehensive ingredients label and contact information for the manufacturer in case you have questions or concerns. 4. Pay attention to footing. Ground that is too hard or too soft can adversely affect hoof health. The ideal is dry and firm---but forgiving--soil, which can be difficult to find during the fall and winter. Improve drainage in turnout areas if you can and be mindful of riding a horse too fast over frozen soil---it can be just as harmful as speeding over parched soil in summer. Finally, try to be patient. Even with ideal nutrition and management, it takes about a year for a horse’s hooves to grow out from coronary band to the ground. Results from changes you make today may not be visible for weeks or months.
When deciding whether to walk a colicky horse, consider the following:
• Many minor colics resolve themselves over a short period of time, no matter what. If the horse will stand or lie quietly in a stall or round pen, remove all hay and water and allow him to rest quietly as you consult with a veterinarian.
• Sometimes the movement of walking can help “jostle” the gut enough to relieve a minor impaction or trapped gas bubble. The chance of this happening is not related to how long the horse is walked, however. If a horse hasn’t improved after a half-hour of brisk walking, he’s not going to improve with that alone. And if the horse’s pain seems to worsen with walking or if he becomes reluctant to move, do not force it. Call the veterinarian immediately.
• Pain can make even a normally easy-to-handle horse unpredictable and even aggressive. It can be dangerous for the people involved to walk any horse who is in so much pain that he wants to roll. Also, pain at that level indicates that the horse is most likely a surgical candidate, and walking will not help his condition. If you are tempted to walk a horse to stop him from rolling in pain, focus your efforts instead on getting him to a veterinary clinic quickly. Walking a colicky horses must be done with a clear concept of the risk and benefit; talk to your veterinarian (who should be on the way in a case like this) if you have been instructed to walk a horse who may be a risk to your safety.
• Other conditions that look like colic may be made worse by walking. A horse with low-level laminitis , an abscess or lymphangitis , for example, might appear at first to simply have gut pain. Walking these horses will exacerbate their true condition. One way to identify colic look-alikes is by taking the horse’s temperature: Colic alone is not typically associated with a fever.