Hoof-Chip Preven­tion Tips

Trail Rider - - YOUR HEALTHY HORSE - BY ELEANOR M. KELLON, VMD

AAre your horse’s hooves brit­tle and chipped? Here are four tips to help you keep his hooves strong and sup­ple.

Chip Tip #1: Sched­ule Reg­u­lar Trim­mings

Proper and timely trim­mings are cru­cial. Let­ting a bare­foot horse go too long be­tween trims in­creases the risk of chip­ping and break­ing.

Here’s why: As the hoof wall grows, it also ex­tends far­ther for­ward in re­la­tion to the bones of the leg and foot. When the hoof lands, the bones stay in the same lo­ca­tion, con­nected to each other, but the hoof wall ex­pands. This causes stretch­ing and even­tu­ally crum­bling of the white line, the layer of hoof wall that con­nects the outer wall to the sole and live tis­sues of the hoof. It also con­trib­utes to chips/flaps de­vel­op­ing in the hoof at ground sur­face.

An­other com­mon mis­take with bare­foot horses is leav­ing the hoof edge sharp where it con­tacts the ground, in­stead of gen­tly rolling the edge of the hoof. This round­ing can greatly help to pre­vent chip­ping.

Learn how to pre­vent chipped, brit­tle hooves in your horse with these ex­pert guide­lines.

Chip Tip #2: Avoid Chem­i­cal Dry­ing

Brit­tle hooves are some­times blamed on pe­ri­odic ex­po­sure to high mois­ture — for ex­am­ple, turn­ing horses out in early morn­ing dew. But the truth is, such ex­po­sure shouldn’t bother a healthy hoof.

Re­search has shown that the nor­mal hoof wall ac­tu­ally takes up very lit­tle mois­ture, even if soaked for long pe­ri­ods of time. How­ever, if hoof qual­ity is poor, mois­ture soaks in much deeper and can cause loss of min­er­als and elec­trolytes from the cells.

Overly dry con­di­tions also may be blamed for hoof-qual­ity prob­lems. But as with mois­ture, if the hoof wall is of good qual­ity to be­gin with, this won’t be a prob­lem.

One thing that even a high-qual­ity hoof won’t be able to with­stand is chem­i­cal dry­ing. Overuse of lime, or stall-dry­ing prod­ucts that con­tain lime, can dry the foot at the ground sur­face and pre­dis­pose it to chip­ping.

Overuse of harsh sham­poos or coat clean­ers can also strip the pro­tec­tive fats and oils from the hoof sur­face.

Chip Tip #3: Dress with Care

When your horse’s hoof is dry, brit­tle, chipped, and cracked, it sounds like a good idea to “treat” it by paint­ing some­thing on. Plus, these prod­ucts are ad­ver­tised to mois­tur­ize and even help heal/re­pair dam­aged hooves.

Un­for­tu­nately, there’s re­ally no re­place­ment for the nat­u­ral pro­tec­tive bar­rier in a hoof. Ex­ces­sive use of dress­ings and oils can over­soften an al­ready dam­aged foot. And horses with deep cracks can have sen­si­tive tis­sues ex­posed to po­ten­tially ir­ri­tat­ing in­gre­di­ents.

If you want to try a hoof dress­ing, ask your vet and far­rier what prod­ucts they’d sug­gest.

An in­creas­ing num­ber of vets and far­ri­ers are turn­ing to hoof-sealant prod­ucts as a way to pro­tect dam­aged feet from fur­ther chip­ping or crack­ing while they grow out. These prod­ucts dry to form a ben­e­fi­cial, pro­tec­tive shell that can last for weeks.

Other cul­prits in­clude dry­ing hoof dress­ings and pol­ishes, pol­ish re­movers, and rasp­ing off rings, which re­moves the hoof’s nat­u­ral pro­tec­tive bar­rier.

Are your horse’s hooves brit­tle and chipped? Here are four tips to help you keep his hooves strong and sup­ple.

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