“Can you share any of your hoof care tips?” – Angela Z. from Salt Lake City, UT
I believe the saying is…”no hoof, no horse.” If the feet are not taken care of, the repercussions can be costly in terms of both money and time. That being said, every horse is a complete individual and external factors such as season, moisture, weather, length of turnout, and type of work all come into play.
Just as with legs, you should know what normal is for your horse’s feet. When they come in from the paddock feel their feet to see how warm they are, you should also know how to find the digital pulse. How strong this pulse is can be a good sign if your horse is abscessing or a puncture has occurred. Should both front feet be excessively warm and the pulse high, call your vet, these are the initial signs of a horse foundering. If you horse is in a stall, check their feet prior to turn out or exercise.
Feet should be picked out on a regular basis, both before and after turnout and/or exercise. Things to look for include signs of thrush, a puncture wound, any cracks or abscesses developing, and risen clinches.
Because horses are individuals, you may or may not need to put him on a hoof supplement. Should your horse have weak feet, prone to cracking it might be helpful.
What do you apply to the feet?? And how often??? I hate to sound repetitive, but once again this all depends on the horse and his lifestyle!! Whilst at Phillip’s, my biggest problem would be horses that would go from the PA winters to the sandy loam of Aiken and then back to dry hard ground of PA again!! The constant change in footing would be hard on horses that had weak feet. The cycle of alternate soaking and drying weakens the hoof wall due to the constant expanding and contracting of the hoof wall (learn more). I like to apply a hoof sealant to the bottom two thirds of the hoof. This can be done before nighttime turnout and bathing.
If you need to take a stronger approach, you may need to reduce nighttime turnout so that your horses are not standing in dewy grass for a long period of time. Another thing to consider is if your horses are left out all day in the summer, they’ll spend much off the day trying to stomp flies off, and some even pace. This is also an area of concern because of the concussion this causes can attribute to loosening nail holes, cracking feet and eventually loss of shoes. Sometimes it helps to shorten the shoeing cycle in the summer by a week. As with any changes to your horse’s shoeing needs, this should be discussed with your farrier.