Equine Hoof Care

equine hoof careRecent wet weather has wreaked havoc across Texas and has impacted every aspect of our environment, including animals. With all the rainfall we’ve received lately, your horse is susceptible to debilitating hoof diseases.  Pasturas Los Alazanes offers these valuable tips for treating and preventing common hoof problems caused by rainy weather and subsequent summer heat.

Your horse’s hooves can adapt well over time to conditions that are consistently dry or consistently damp, but hooves suffer when the environment fluctuates between wet and dry. Unfortunately, this is often the situation during the very months when you want to use your horse the most: late spring, summer, and early fall. Evening turnout–a summer strategy to avoid biting insects–puts hooves in prolonged contact with dew-soaked grass; they swell and soften with moisture, much as your fingernails soften after hours in water. Back in a dry, hot environment during the day, the hooves dry and contract. With repetition of this cycle, horseshoe nails loosen as their holes through the hoof wall enlarge slightly. Such summer activities as work, stomping flies, or (if your horse is restless) walking the fence accelerate the loosening; pretty soon you’re asking your farrier, “Why can’t my horse keep his shoes on?”

Diligent, daily hoof care benefits much more than your horse’s hooves. It clues you in to early signs of thrush and other infections and allows you to find and address puncture wounds, cracks, abscesses, and more. Plus, frequent removal of dirt, bedding, and mud is much faster – and healthier – than waiting to remove a week’s worth of clods. Use the following tips to help establish a hoof care routine for your horse:

  • Clean Out Hooves – remove dirt, rocks, grass, manure, and more with a hoof pick. Follow with a stiff-bristle brush to clean away debris from the sole, which should be visible at all times. Clean each hoof daily, especially before and after all trail rides, pasture work, or turnout. This allows you to remove any caught debris before it damages or injures the hoof. While you pick, also check for signs of thrush, puncture wounds, cracks, and abscesses.
  • Inspect Her Shoes – check for sprung (pulled away or bent) or shifted (moved to the side) horseshoes. Inappropriately shod hooves are susceptible to injury from the metal shoe itself or its clinches or nails. Most farriers will teach you how to remove a thrown shoe – which could help save your horse’s hooves and your farrier valuable time. Also keep a suitable hoof repair kit on hand for added protection.
  • Feed For Hoof Health – add a hoof supplement such as Vita-Biotin Crumbles or HB 15 Hoof supplement to your horse’s diet. Most contain vitamins and minerals, such as biotin and zinc, respectively, to help maintain and encourage the growth of proteins and keratin that comprise your horse’s hooves. In addition, ask your veterinarian to help tailor your horse’s diet to meet her nutritional needs.
  • Maintain Hoof Moisture – control hoof water loss and absorption with a topical conditioner such as Absorbine Hooflex Therapeutic Conditioner or Farnam RainMaker. Wet weather, dewy pastures, and muddy paddocks can cause hooves to soften. Similarly, dry and hot weather can cause the hoof to crack, break, contract, or grow brittle. Both situations leave hooves susceptible to injury and infection. Worse, hoof growth can take well over a year to replace a break high on the hoof wall, which is infinitely longer than the few minutes it takes to apply an appropriate sealant or moisturizer. We also recommend regular use of Hoof Alive Coronet Soaker to maintain a healthy coronary base and encourage hoof growth.
  • Move Her Out of the Mud – prolonged exposure to mud can alter hoof moisture content, cause thrush or similar infections, and loosen shoes. Worse, mud can cause a horse to slip, fall and break a leg, or injure joints. Level pastures and fill in holes to help prevent water from gathering and forming mud. Also build a run-in shelter to offer your horse protection and dry ground while she’s turned out to pasture. In addition, certain topical conditioners can help control infections.
  • Encourage Exercise – activity helps promote hoof growth, strength, and health. Equestrian-approved games, such as Horse Soccer, can help keep your horse active and playful. If space is a concern, build a protected pasture of any size with a convenient and safe electric fence. Or, exercise your horse in the paddock with a lunge line.
  • Protect your horse’s hooves during hauling. Without covering for her heels, she can easily step on the edge of a shoe and pull it partially loose–then spend the remainder of the journey standing on the nails of the sprung or shifted shoe. Another vulnerable area is the coronet band: the rim of tissue at the top of each hoof that generates new hoof-wall growth. Injury to this area (for instance, if she steps on himself while struggling to keep her balance in a moving trailer) can interrupt hoof growth in the area below the affected spot. The solution: Either old-fashioned shipping bandages and bell boots (large enough to cover the bulbs of your horse’s heels and the backs of her shoes) or good quality full-coverage Velcro-fastened shipping boots reduce the likelihood of these problems.

Come in and talk to us at Pasturas Los Alazanes for help selecting the right hoof care products for keeping your horse on the right foot.  We also have a wide selection of saddles, Mexican tack, blankets as well as racing accessories.

Sources: Practical Horseman Magazine, Horse.com

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