EQUUS - - Eq Hands On -

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.

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