There’s a lot riding on the health and condition of your horse’s hooves. In the wild, a maimed animal is doomed to succumb to predators and scavengers. Thankfully though, your equine friend is not in the wild, and there’s a lot you can do to make sure its hooves are healthy and properly maintained.
A horse’s ability to ride trails, participate in various competitions, work the farm, interact with other animals, and even perform simple activities like walking, running, and jumping all depends on the condition of its hooves. Horses are magnificent creatures, so graceful and majestic. But when they’re in pain, especially when it’s because of poor hoof condition, these animals can be temperamental and overly anxious.
Different factors can cause a horse’s hooves to deteriorate: weather, heredity, turnout frequency, poorly maintained horseshoes, the environment, terrain, nutritional deficiency, and poor diet. All of these can have a negative effect to equine hoof health. As such, there are factors you need to watch out for to make sure that your horse’s hooves are in tiptop shape.
Common Indicators of Healthy Horse Hooves
So, how do you know if your horse’s hooves are healthy and in top condition? Here are a few basic signs of healthy hooves in horses:
- The hoof wall appears naturally glossy and radiant.
- The hoof wall if free of any cracks, flares, or rings.
- The hoof wall is uniform in appearance and smooth.
- The hoof wall has an average thickness of about 3/8 of an inch that peters out smoothly towards the heel.
- The frog is free of cracks, twice as long as it is wide, rubbery, and resilient.
- The sole is concaved and with the white line (inter-connected lamina that joins the sole and the hoof wall) the only portion of the sole to ever touch the shoe or the pavement.
- The hoof easily sheds mud, water, and dust.
These are the most common signs that indicate healthy and well-maintained equine hooves:
Horse Hoof Supplements: Hoof Care Tips and Practices to Abide By
- Regularly clean and pick out your horse’s hooves.
This sounds obvious and shouldn’t be included as a tip, but you won’t believe how many horse owners tend to overlook this practice. Many of them believe that it’s the farrier’s job to pick out horse hooves. If they do pick out their own horse’s hooves, they often do it sporadically, only when they feel like it.
The truth is this is perhaps the single most crucial aspect in taking care of your equine friend’s feet. And yes, farriers may pick out the hooves as part of their services, but how often do you take your horse to the farrier? Does this mean that your horse’s feet only get cleaned when you take it to your local farrier?
If you pick out and clean your horse’s hooves regularly, you are basically getting a headstart on healthy and well-conditioned hooves. Consider this practice as a preventive measure, keeping some of the most common hoof problems at bay.
So, how often should you check your horse’s hooves? Do it before and after you take out your horse for a ride. Also, before you tuck the animal in for the night, check the hooves for any turnout injuries. Before turnout the next day, you should pick out manure and other debris in the hooves as well.
- Check the horse’s shoes regularly and look for signs of wear and tear.
Horseshoes protect the horse’s hooves from rugged terrain, rough stones, and sharp objects that could puncture the soles of its hooves. But these horseshoes could also be the cause of their pain and hoof health deterioration when not maintained properly or if the hooves are inappropriately shod.
When you’re in the process of inspecting the hooves, check for signs of sprung (bent or pulled away) or shifted horseshoes. Sometimes, due to wear and tear or inappropriately shod hooves, horseshoes can pull away, get shifted, or become loose. Once this happens, the horse can become susceptible to a variety of hoof-related injuries.
- Be vigilant of the following signs when inspecting your horse’s hooves.
- Thrush – This is a bacterial condition often caused by the animal standing for too long on manure, mud, and any other wet or moist surface. The common symptoms of thrush are foul odor emanating from the underside of the hoof and dark ooze coming from the cleft of the frog. In its advanced stages, thrush can cause lameness and considerable damage to the hoof. However, in its earlier stages, thrush is relatively easy to treat.
- Hoof wall cracking – Some cracks on the hoof wall are superficial, but others can worsen over time and may affect some of the structural components of the hoof if not addressed appropriately.
- Abscess inside the hoof – If the animal’s pulse is stronger than normal and/or if the sole of its hoof feels unusually warmer to the touch, you could be dealing with abscess inside the hoof. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including a badly positioned shoeing nail, a puncture on the sole, or even a bruise.
- Carefully monitor your horse’s diet and nutritional intake.
Proper diet and nutrition has a lot to do with coat growth and the condition of the hooves in your horses. Make sure that you feed your horse a well balanced nutrient-rich diet. To make sure that the animal is taking in its daily nutritional requirements, you may want to consider using nutritional supplements.
There are hoof supplements available to help with hoof health if you feel that your equine companion needs it. There are also horse coat supplements for improving coat condition, as well as a wide range of food supplements designed for a variety of nutritional needs. A healthy animal can develop healthy hooves, luscious coat, and a gleaming mane and tail.