Horse hoof care is one of the most important aspects of looking after your horse, but it can also be the most neglected. Read on the learn how to care for your horse’s hooves properly.
Routine Foot Care
Proper routine foot care for your horse means cleaning, trimming, and shoeing your horse’s feet when needed. Both The shape of the trimming and the frequency depend on several factors. These include the type of horse, the horse’s age, environment, and more. Generally, hooves should be trimmed between 5-7 weeks.
Newly born foals should begin their horse hoof care fairly early. They should receive their first trimming at about one to two weeks old. This prevents the horse from learning to walk and run on less-than-ideal hooves.
If your horse does not receive its first trimming within the first year, long-term problems might occur. Damage done from an improperly shaped hoof might become permanent. It’s paramount that you begin trimming your horse’s hooves in a timely manner.
Maintain Hoof Wall Angle
The most important aspect of hoof maintenance is maintaining the right hoof angle. The shape and length of the foot should be maintained through trimming. When trimming is needed, remove any excess hoof growth to return the hoof to the proper shape and angle. Ensure that the hoof is smooth and even on all sides.
The proper angle depends on the horse, but typically this should be done to achieve a 50 to 54-degree angle. If the toe is too long or short after trimming, your horse will not have the stability it needs.
A hoof with too long a toe may put too much strain on the horse’s hoof and tendons. This can lead to hoof cracking. Alternatively, a hoof with too short a toe may put additional strain on the horse’s joints. Improper length on the heel or an uneven hoof might also cause problems.
If you are unsure what hoof wall angle is ideal for your horse, consult an expert. Once you know what angle you should be maintaining, you’ll have a better understanding of how and when to trim your horse’s hooves.
Hooves should be cleaned very frequently, usually at least once a day. It’s good practice to clean your horse’s feet after every ride. Check for rocks, nails, or other foreign objects after each ride. For in-depth cleaning, use a hoof pick to clean out each side of the frog.
The Horse’s Environment
For the most part, hooves grow at a fairly constant rate. The rate and frequency at which you exercise your horse will impact how healthy your horse’s hooves are.
The terrain your horse rides on will also impact the hoove’s maintenance needs. Horses in softer pastures will need trimming more frequently than horses in harder terrains.
Maintain Moisture in Feet
Exposing your horse to dry conditions can have negative consequences for your horse’s feet. Abrupt changes from dry to humid climates can have a similar effect.
Extremely wet conditions can also reduce the amount of natural oils in a hoof, which can cause rapid drying. Without treatment, these conditions can cause various levels of hoof damage.
To prevent any issues in your horses’ foot health, find alternative ways to maintain the moisture in your horse’s hooves. Limit your horse’s exposure to overly dry environments when possible and add moisturizer or dressing when needed to prevent hoof cracking.
Common Hoof Problems
Some conditions can cause problems with your horse’s hooves. These should be addressed as soon as possible to prevent any health problems.
Poor Shoeing or Trimming
Shoeing and trimming are critical for maintaining your horse’s health. When done incorrectly or too infrequently, the following problems can occur.
- Horse’s toes are too long and the heals too short: this will put additional strain on the horse’s tendons and bone
- Horse’s toes are too short and the heals are too long: this can cause trauma to the bone and joins
- Imbalanced hooves: this will put stress on ligaments and joints
Hoof cracks can be caused by multiple factors, some unavoidable. Most commonly, poor trimming leads to long toes, which can cause cracking.
However, some horses are born with poor hoove quality. If this is the case, your horse may be prone to hoof cracking. Weather can also have a significant influence on your horse’s hoof quality, especially in dryer environments.
If your horse is experiencing hoof cracking, there are several treatment options. More frequent trimmings might be needed to prevent your horse’s toes from becoming too long.
Nutrition also has a large influence on hoof quality, so consider adjusting your horse’s diet. Hoof moisturizers can also help combat hoof cracks. This treatment option is especially useful when the cracks are caused by dry conditions.
Additional Hoof Problems
Outside of poor hoof maintenance or hoof cracks, there are other conditions that could affect your horse’s foot health.
- Thrush: a condition caused by overly wet conditions. Usually presents as a black liquid around the hoof’s frog area.
- Solar Abscesses: An infection in the horse’s hoof that is usually a result of a foreign object in the hoof.
- Foreign Objects & Infection: Foreign objects launched into the hoof can cause pain and damage to the region. This can also lead to infection or solar abscesses.
- Laminitis: Swelling in the hoof tissue. Often a result of improper shoeing or trimming.
- Navicular Disease: A condition, sometimes genetic, that causes damage to the bone and ligaments. Soft tissue can also be affected.
Choose The Best Footing for Your Horses
A great way to increase your horse’s hoof health is through high-quality footing. Footing additive cushions your horse’s hooves when riding, encouraging better performance and softening the hoof’s impact.
Benefits of Propper Footing
The surface your horse rides on has a lot to do with their hoof health. Proper footing can reduce compaction, reducing your horse’s chances for injury. Finding the right footing will dramatically improve hoof cushioning and energy return in horses.
The softer landing will create a lighter landing for your horse. In the long run, softer riding surfaces will reduce the frequency of trimming and the chances of hoof fracturing.
Have questions about what footing is right for your horse? Give us a call at 877-835-0878 and talk to a footing expert.