Raising a healthy horse is easier said than done because you have to be a step ahead of equine health at all times. There is a lot you will have to take care of. While your attention will mostly be on its coat, teeth, bones, and digestive health, hoof problems may quietly creep in and cause more trouble than you imagine. Looking after the animal’s hooves is vital because they support the animal and keep it moving and active. You will have to be extra careful if you own a racehorse.
Looking after equine hoof health can be daunting, considering that several factors determine it. Major problems can arise even if a minor factor is out of place. If you want to ensure the best hoof care for your equine, you must follow these factors and do a lot more to ensure that the animal is active, happy, and comfortable at all times. Here are some expert tips that have you covered.
Know the culprits
Even before you learn about hoof care, you must understand the possible reasons for potential problems. Your equine may suffer due to hereditary issues, living environment, terrain, and weather.
Movement and exercise also have a role to play because an active animal is less likely to experience hoof problems, while an obese one is at high risk. Lack of nutrition is another risk factor, while the horse may also suffer due to a pre-existing disease or injury. It is vital to understand the risk factors for your equine before you create a comprehensive hoof care plan for it.
Choose between shod and barefoot
As an owner, you will have to decide whether you will have the horse go shod or barefoot in the first place. The choice depends on several factors such as the current hoof health, the animal’s living environment, and personal preferences. If the hooves are healthy, you can forgo shoes and keep them unshod. Conversely, the equine will benefit from being shod if it is involved in sports or has a weak hoof structure. Letting the animal go barefoot isn’t a good idea if it is exposed to a wet environment because it is susceptible to damage.
Keep the hooves clean
The simplest way to care for your horse’s hooves is to keep them clean, which isn’t a lot of work if you know the basics. It should be a daily routine, and you must do it before and after each ride. Pick out its feet, pry any debris stuck in there, clear the crevice of the frog, and clean the surface with a stiff brush. As you complete the process, look for signs of issues such as cracks, abscesses, punctures, and thrush. You must also check for turnout injuries every day. Do not overlook the slightest problem because early treatment can prevent it from getting aggravated. If you notice anything amiss, connect with a farrier or veterinarian right away.
Understand what is normal
Apart from looking for visible signs of problems or injuries while cleaning the hooves, you must also know the subtle indications of something being amiss. Everything boils down to understanding what is normal. Notice the temperature of the horse’s feet as you pick them out. They will feel very slightly warm when everything is fine. Locate the digital pulse and check if it is too fast because it could be an indication of laminitis in horses. Check the frog and assess its texture and firmness, which should be much like a new rubber eraser. Once you see something amiss, get help at the earliest.
Maintain moisture during seasonal changes
Horse owners need to align their hoof care routine according to the changes in the season. Depending on the climatic conditions of your area, seasonal changes can lead to moisture issues with the animal’s hooves. You have to make sure that they do not get dry or cracked in dry weather or soft in wet weather. Fortunately, it is easy to deal with both situations, provided that you get into the action early. Applying a moisturizer to the sole can prevent cracking during dry weather. You can use a hoof sealant to cut out the excess moisture in wet weather.
Be extra conscious in summer
If you are regular with the use of moisturizers and sealants on the horse’s hooves, they will do pretty well. But things can get harder to manage when the weather fluctuates between wet and dry, which often happens in the summer months. While you may use evening turnout as a strategy to avoid biting insects, it can lead to swelling and softening of hooves due to prolonged contact with dew-soaked grass. They also tend to dry and contract during the day. The repetition of this cycle can cause the horseshoe nails to loosen. It means that you need to go the extra mile with your hoof care routine at this time of the year. Start taking the right measures in late spring, carry on through the summer, and follow them till early fall.
Pay attention to nutrition
Nothing is more important than good nutrition when it comes to maintaining the hoof health of your horse. A balanced diet can alleviate many equine health issues, so make sure that you feed it quality hay that delivers the right levels of minerals and vitamins. Access to clean drinking water is equally crucial. You can consider using supplements to fill the nutritional gaps. Essential supplements for healthy hooves include zinc, biotin, iodine, and methionine. Speak to a veterinarian or horse nutritionist to recommend a good nutrition plan for the animal and follow it religiously.
Keep it active
Horse owners must do their bit for hoof care by investing time in cleaning and regular care, but you must also make efforts to ensure overall health for them. Activity and exercise can go a long way in boosting equine health, including keeping their hooves in good shape. It prevents obesity, which is a risk factor for hoof conditions. Make sure that the animal gets enough exercise at all times of the year. Take it out for walks and games, as it will develop a bonding with the animal in addition to making it strong and healthy. It is great if you can do it in an open field or pasture, but you may exercise it in a paddock as well.
Schedule regular farrier visits
Regular farrier visits are vital to ensure that your horse’s hooves are always at their healthiest best. While there isn’t a standard recommendation for trimming and shoeing schedules, you must have it done once every six to eight weeks. You may want to schedule at shorter intervals if there is a problem with the hooves. Being regular with your schedule and checking early in an emergency keeps the horse comfortable and the owner one step ahead of any issues. It makes sense to detect them on time and get them treated at the earliest.
As a horse owner, you must keep an eye on the slightest signs of hoof problems and deal with them right away. Regular cleaning and care can help you prevent them from happening at all, so stay a step ahead. Also, pay attention to the horse’s diet, exercise, and living environment. As long as you follow these basics, you can steer clear of problems in the first place. It is also vital to get checkups by a farrier and a vet. Just following these steps is enough to keep your horse’s feet happy.