Hoof-Care Help

Hoof prob­lems? Re­view ba­sic man­age­ment strate­gies first, then con­sider the ad­di­tional help your horse’s feet may need.

Horse & Rider - - Healthy Hooves -

Keep­ing hooves at their health­i­est re­quires on­go­ing at­ten­tion and ef­fort. Here’s a roundup of key strate­gies for pro­mot­ing strong, re­silient hooves, plus ad­vice for deal­ing with your horse’s spe­cific foot prob­lems.

Good Nutrition

Healthy hooves start in­side your horse. Be­cause the hoof wall con­sists largely of ker­atin, a struc­tural pro­tein, your horse’s diet must con­tain enough high-qual­ity pro­tein to sup­ply the amino acids es­sen­tial for hoof growth. A good hay will pro­vide most horses’ pro­tein re­quire­ment; if your hay is low in pro­tein (you can tell by hav­ing it tested), con­sider sup­ple­ment­ing your horse’s in­take with a com­mer­cial con­cen­trate. Also avoid feeds con­tain­ing ex­cess sug­ars and starches as they in­crease your horse’s risk of lamini­tis.

Pro­fes­sional Care

Set a reg­u­lar sched­ule with a com­pe­tent far­rier or trim­mer on a fre­quency that suits your horse’s needs (typ­i­cally ev­ery four to six weeks). Hoof care should be in­di­vid­u­al­ized rather than for­mu­laic. Tell your hoof-care pro­fes­sional you’re in­ter­ested in op­ti­mal foot health, and chat with him or her at each visit about the on­go­ing con­di­tion of your horse’s hooves.

Daily Main­te­nance

Pick out your horse’s feet reg­u­larly to keep the frog healthy and thrush-free, and to in­spect the foot for early signs of in­jury or dis­ease. Come to know what’s nor­mal for your horse, in­clud­ing the tem­per­a­ture of the foot in your hand (an in­crease can in­di­cate in­flam­ma­tion).

Suit­able Sur­faces

Clean your horse’s stall or pen reg­u­larly so he’s not stand­ing in ma­nure. Avoid liv­ing con­di­tions that re­sult in his feet get­ting wet and then dry­ing out ev­ery day, which pro­motes dry­ness and con­trac­tion of hoof tis­sues. Ride on ap­pro­pri­ate foot­ing free of bruise-caus­ing stones. Use com­mon sense on trails, and ex­tra care any­place you can’t see the foot­ing clearly (e.g., muddy stream cross­ings). If your horse is bare­foot, al­ways con­sider the po­ten­tial need for pro­tec­tive boots over ground that’s harder or rock­ier than he’s ac­cus­tomed to.

Reg­u­lar Ex­er­cise

Move­ment pro­motes cir­cu­la­tion and stim­u­lates hoof growth. Ide­ally, keep your horse where he can move around nat­u­rally through­out the day and night (such as in a pas­ture, pen, or stall-with-run). Work him reg­u­larly, too, es­pe­cially if his set-up doesn’t al­low for max­i­mum move­ment.

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