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Basic Hoof Care

The saying "No Hoof, No Horse" is very true! Healthy hooves are the foundation for everything you will want to enjoy with your horse. By following some simple stable management practices and being aware of common hoof ailments you can help keep your horse healthy and happy. Here are some helpful hints to help with your horses hoof care: 

1.       Pick out your horse's feet

·         Before each ride, to remove any stones or small objects lodged in his feet and to check on the condition of his shoes.

·         After you un-tack him, in case something has become stuck in his feet during the ride.

·         When you bring him in at night, to check for objects in his feet, or for turnout injuries.

·         Before turnout the next morning, to check for heat and pulse, remove manure, and check for signs of hoof ailments.

2.       Know what’s normal

·         When everything's OK, the hoof should feel slightly warm to the touch.

·         Take a moment to locate the digital pulse with two fingers pressed against the back of his pastern; you're interested not in the rate of the pulse, but in its strength under normal conditions.

·         Check the frog, which has the texture and firmness of a rubber eraser when it's healthy. Most horses shed the frog at least twice a year.

3.       Schedule regular Farrier visits

Although six to eight weeks is the average, there's really no “correct” interval for trimming and shoeing.

If your farrier is correcting a problem such as under-run heels, a club foot, or flare in the hoof wall, your horse may benefit from a shorter interval between farrier appointments.

If everything looks fine but you notice that he begins forging (striking the back of a front hoof with the toe of a back hoof) ask your farrier whether a shorter visit interval might be more suitable.

4.       If your horse is shod, check his shoes each time you pick out his feet and look for:

 Risen clinches

This is when the ends of the nails your Farrier trimmed and clinched (bent flush with the outer hoof wall) at his last shoeing start sticking out from the hoof wall. This is a sign that the shoe is loosening, probably because it's been in place for several weeks; you horse can injure himself if the risen clinches on one foot brush the inside of the other leg.

 A sprung or shifted shoe

 When the shoe is pulled away and perhaps even bent instead of sitting flat on your horse's hoof, it is said to be “sprung”. If it's moved to one side or the other, it's “shifted”. In either case, the nails in the problem shoe can press on sensitive hoof structures when he places weight on that foot.

5.       Help your horse grow the best possible hooves.

Fine-tune his diet. Ask your veterinarian whether your feeding program is appropriate for your horse's nutritional needs.

Give him consistent exercise. Work on good surfaces, especially at walk and trot, increases circulation to your horse's hooves and promotes growth.

6.       Be aware of problems associated with the hoof

Thrush

Thrush is a bacterial condition usually caused by standing in manure, mud, or other wet conditions for prolonged periods. The first sign is a foul smell and dark ooze from the cleft of the frog.

Always ensure your horse's stable is clean and dry. The use of very absorbent bedding such as shavings is usually recommended for this purpose.

Cracks

Some cracks are superficial; others can worsen without appropriate shoeing. If you notice a crack in your horse's hoof, call your Farrier and describe its location and size so he can decide whether it needs attention now or can wait until the next regular shoeing.

Abscess

Often lameness or lack of activity in a horse can result from hoof abscesses. They occur when foreign objects get into the hoof leading to an infection in the hoof that can be quite painful.

 If your horse's digital pulse feels stronger than usual and/or his foot is warmer than normal the cause could be an abscess inside the hoof from a shoeing nail, bruise, or a sole puncture.

To properly treat an abscess, it is important to catch it as early as possible. Always seek medical advice from your veterinarian, who will probably recommend draining the infection. This is one way of treating an abscess, but the wound should not be large enough so that another abscess can occur. For the first two days of treatment, the use of a poultice in draining may be an effective option.

Laminitis

Laminitis is a painful condition of the feet. The actual word laminitis means 'inflammation of the sensitive laminae’. These laminae are the membranes that hold the bone of the foot (pedal bone) in place inside the hoof. When the laminae become inflamed the pain that results is as if your horse has to stand on a very badly bruised fingernail.

Laminitis can occur in any horse at any time of year but most commonly affects ponies and show horses in the spring when new lush grass starts growing. Laminitis as a condition is not fully understood by scientists and vets. Because it is primarily a nutritional problem food supplements can be particularly useful.

Mud fever

Mud Fever occurs during the wet winter months and is principally caused by the bacterium Dermatophilus congolensis. Mud fever is essentially a form of dermatitis which affects the skin on the heel, fetlock and pastern. All horses can be affected, but particularly those with long hair around the fetlock. Back legs are more prone to mud fever than front.

Inflammation of the skin and underlying tissues leads to the skin swelling, stretching and weeping; cracks appear, hair falls out and hard scabs form. Horses exposed to a muddy environment or those that are kept in dirty conditions are predisposed to Mud Fever.