Hooves are the amazing, yet delicate cornerstone of your horse’s ability to move. Having the right care plan in place can not only keep them healthy, but also extend your horse’s riding career and avoid costly vet bills.
Nipping Problems in the Bud
The first hoof care solution is nipping any existing hoof problems in the bud. Taking care of hoof issues right away will shorten the recovery period and help prevent the problem from becoming chronic.
Here are summaries of common solutions for these wide-spread hoof problems. Follow the links if you want to know more in depth about each condition. [ link to a more in depth page internal or external for each problem] Remember to always talk with your vet or farrier about what treatment is right for your horse’s unique condition.
Dry Hooves: Sometimes a hoof conditioner is necessary. Other times, it should be avoided. Dry, cracking hooves could be a sign of a deeper problem.
Weak Hooves: Keeping your horse’s hooves clean during changing weather and supplementing his diet with great nutrients are some of the biggest things you can do to help with this.
Cracks: Depending on the type of crack, the hoof may simply need to grow out and receive regular trims. In more severe cases, the horse may need corrective shoeing or support from hoof-patching glue.
Thrush: Ask your vet which antimicrobial topical treatment is the best. Some home remedies can be damaging, caustic or block oxygen to the hoof, so try to find a vet-approved treatment. .
Abscesses: Depending on where the abscess is, the vet will usually drain it and apply some kind of poultice to draw out any remaining puss.
Laminitis: Go to your vet at the first signs (painful feet, leaning back on the hind end, hoof soles unnaturally hot to the touch). Laminitis is a devastating emergency, but the earlier you catch it, the better your vet and farrier can manage this condition.
Daily cleaning is important for preventing a number of hoof issues such as bacterial infections, puncture wounds and bruises. It only takes about five minutes a day to clean out the v-shaped groove around your horse’s frog.
You can also check for signs of disease and injury when cleaning each hoof. Look for the problems listed above like cracks, foul smells, new injuries and unnaturally high heat when you touch the sole.
Download Our Free 10-Step Checklist to Maximize the Health of Your Horse's Hooves this Fall/Winter.
Building Blocks of a Strong Hoof
Long-term hoof solutions start on the inside. Growing out a hoof takes anywhere from ten to twelve months. This means that essential nutrients need to be fed long-term in order to see and maintain better hoof quality.
When your horse’s hooves are growing out and repairing damage, it’s important to give them nutrients like biotin, lysine, zinc, methionine, omega 3’s and the right blend of amino acids. For example: The continual use of biotin helps with fast hoof growth and repair. When paired with zinc, an amino acid that aids in whole body repair, you have a synergistic team of nutrients working to repair and grow stronger, new hoof.
The Right Hoof Environment
A solution to preventing a wide range of hoof problems is keeping your horse in a healthy environment. When your horse stands in wet footing for a long time, his hooves may become soft and weak. He’ll also be more prone to bacterial infection.
Going from extremely dry to extremely wet conditions can also lead to cracking as the hoof expands and contracts. Also, try to protect your horse from doing high-impact movements barefoot on hard, paved or rocky ground as this can lead to bruising and cracking.
An Excellent Vet and Farrier
The key solution in any and all hoof care plans is an experienced vet and farrier. When in doubt, they can steer you in the right direction and help solve problems.
At times, people will try home treatments that their friends recommended, only to see non-existant or damaging results. If you’re thinking of applying a treatment that worked for your friend, ask a vet or farrier first so they can confirm its safety and effectiveness.
Giving Your Horse’s Hooves Some TLC
The last solution is being thoughtful about the situations that your horses hooves are placed in. A little bit of thought given to the type of bedding he has, whether or not it’s okay to canter on this stoney trail, or whether or not his stall has good run-off can go a long way towards preserving his horse’s hooves.
People talk often talk about “hoof solutions” in terms of nutrition alone. However, the best hoof solution is a bigger picture that includes proper treatment, daily cleaning, good blood circulation, healthy environments and long-term nutritional support.