When you become a horse owner, you are making a long-term commitment to ensuring the health and safety of your horse. Proper nutrition, sound board and pasturing, and quality veterinary and farrier services are the cornerstones of that commitment. While some may think it odd to focus on the care of a single aspect of horse anatomy, the care of a horse’s hooves is an absolutely essential part of caring for a horse.
The reason for such meticulous attention to the hooves is that hoof care is so vital to the overall health of a horse. Any injury or illness that has to do with the hooves is compounded because all the horse’s weight rests on them. While other parts of the body can certainly be afflicted with ailment or injury, the hooves are of particular concern. To ensure your horse lives a long and healthy life, you’ll need to take care of its hooves. Here are a few tips on hoof care shared by various farriers and veterinary professionals.
Proper Hoof Maintenance
Proper Nutrition for Hoof Health
While proper nutrition is essential to a horse’s overall health, it also plays a vital role in hoof health. A high-quality forage first diet is a crucial component to good hoof health. It may be necessary to assess the nutritional quality of your horse’s grass and hay. Such forage should naturally contain protein, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that contribute to hoof health; however, if it does not, you’ll want to supplement your horse’s diet to provide the correct balance of nutrients.
While laminitis is often associated with horses overeating spring grass, it can occur any time a horse over consumes grasses, grains, or other foods with high levels of sugars and soluble carbohydrates. Thus, it is crucial to think critically about the nutritional needs of your horse.
Pick Your Horses Hooves
On the most basic level, you’ll need to pick your horse’s hooves daily, particularly before and after riding. This will give you plenty of opportunities to observe any potential changes or issues that may arise. Keeping your horse’s hooves free of stones and thrush goes beyond a simple grooming routine – it can prevent a whole host of ailments and lamenesses. Just as having a rock in your shoe can irritate your feet, the same is true for horses’ hooves.
Trimming & Shoeing
Another significant aspect of hoof care is regular trimming. Have an experienced farrier trim your horse’s hooves every six to eight weeks. Horse’s hooves are made of keratin, the same as a person’s fingernails. And just as we trim our nails, horse’s hooves require regular trimming. Trimming can prevent cracking and excess strain on the feet, which can lead to lameness. Proper trimming is essential, so this is not a DIY activity. Done incorrectly, your horse could become physically disabled.
Final Thoughts on Hoof Care
Proper nutrition, regular hoof picking, and having a trained farrier are critical to overall horse hoof health. These are just the basics of hoof care, and horse owners should always consult with their veterinarians and farriers for their particular horse’s needs. To ensure your horse’s longevity and quality of life, make sure you pay attention to your horse’s needs and include proper hoof maintenance as part of your horse care routines.