Ensuring your horse’s hooves are in the best possible condition going into winter is vital, says Stuart. “One of the advantages of having shod feet is that it keeps people a little tighter on their rota with their farrier. If they just have a trim, that routine can slip, so I don’t mind whether a horse is shod or trimmed, as long as it is done regularly.” Foot balance is also important. “Getting the hoof balance spot-on will help prevent things such as quarter cracks, which are much more difficult conditions to manage in winter as the wet exacerbates it. The vet and farrier can look at a horse’s movement and footfall and assess the hoof balance. Owners can really help by having an X-ray taken of their horse’s hoof to give the farrier a better idea of what is going on.” Hoof supplements are always worth considering in the run-up and during the winter months, too. “There are plenty of biotin-rich hoof supplements on the market, but these need to be fed six to nine months before winter so that the healthy foot is coming through in winter,” Stuart says. “They don’t speed up hoof growth, but they do improve the quality of the horn.” Preventing horses standing for long periods in wet, muddy conditions is also vital. “What is ideal is having somewhere dry where the horse can stand and get out of the mud,” suggests Stuart. “There’s nothing worse than poached, muddy gateways where the horses will stand for hours waiting to come in. “Even if you don’t have stables, just being able to pull them out of the poached ground and pick out their feet is better than nothing. It’s easy to miss punctures and penetration wounds if you’re not picking out your horse’s feet daily.” When it’s cold and dark, it’s tempting to bring your horse in from the field and chuck him straight into his stable, but the least you should do is pick out his feet. Clean, dry bedding is extremely important too.
Poor hooves will deteriorate in winter. Plan ahead and work with your vet and farrier to get them healthy early