5 Essential Hoof Care Tips for Healthy Horses

by Caitlyn Andrews September 12, 2016

Hoof Care Tips for Horse Health

"The hoof makes the horse." You may have heard the old saying. Hooves aren't the only thing you should be paying attention to when it comes to your horse's health, but there is a reason for the old saying. Unhealthy hooves can set your horse up for a variety of problems. Some issues are genetic, such as clubfoot, but others can be prevented.

Here are some useful tips to help you care for your horse's hooves. These tips can be used whether you keep your horse shod or not.

1. Know Your Horse's Hoof

This may sound obvious, but the more you examine your horse's hooves, the sooner you'll be able to recognize if something is wrong. By making an effort to pick your horse's hooves daily you will be able to notice right away if there is a problem, such as thrush developing, a loose shoe, a crack, or a wedged stone. If you aren't picking your horse's hooves frequently then you risk letting a minor problem grow into a serious one.

Bonus: Picking your horse's hooves daily is a quick way to reinforce good ground manners.

2. Keep a Regular Farrier Schedule

A typical schedule for having the farrier come out is every 6-8 weeks for a trim. There is no set schedule that works for every horse, and individual horses vary depending on the work they do, whether or not they're shod, the time of year, and their typical hoof growth.

If you're just looking for a new farrier, ask around the horse community where you live to find a reputable farrier. Horse shows, tack shops, and boarding stables are all great places to ask around for good farriers in the area. If you have a good farrier, listen to them! If your farrier feels it is necessary for your horse to be trimmed every 6 weeks, don't push out your appointment an extra week or two. Particularly for horses with conditions such as clubfoot, it is important that they get the hoof care they need on a regular schedule to maintain hoof health and prevent issues that could arise from overgrown hooves.

Bonus tip: Ask your farrier how to remove a shoe. If your horse's shoe is coming off, it pays to know how to safely remove it yourself. Most farriers would be happy to show you how.

3. Prevent Hoof Problems with Proper Nutrition

Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining hoof health. Some horses just naturally have healthier hooves than others, but maintaining a proper diet and ensuring adequate nutrition will help your horse grow its healthiest hooves possible.

Consult with your veterinarian to determine whether your horse needs supplements added to its diet. Some horses may benefit from a hoof supplement that is specially formulated with biotin to improve hoof health.

4. Consider Your Horse's Turn Out Options

During the warmer months, your horse is susceptible to dewy pastures at night and pestering flies during the day. At night, the moisture in the grass can cause your horse's hooves to soften, and the flies during the day can cause your horse to stomp. This fluctuation in dry and wet conditions can lead your horse's hooves more open to cracking and splitting, and even cause nails in shoes to loosen. Try reducing turn out time if possible to help your horse's hooves recover.

Try not to turn your horse out in deep, muddy footing. This type of footing can encourage thrush, an infection of the hoof. Horses can also injure themselves in the mud or lose their shoes.

5. Hoof Protection During Hauling and Exercise

Consistent exercise can actually help your horse's hooves. Working your horse improves circulation to the hoof and promotes new growth. Just be sure that your horse is conditioned for the work you are asking them to do.

When hauling, it is very important to protect your horse's hooves. If a horse stumbles while trying to catch their balance in a trailer they can easily cut their legs and hooves. They could even pull a shoe. Using wraps and bell boots or shipping boots can protect your horse from damage should they step on themselves in the trailer. If you use wraps, be sure that you know how to properly use them. Wraps can cause damage to your horse's legs if not wrapped correctly.

Horse show tip: Try to save baths for shows. Bathing too frequently isn't good for your horse's hooves. Save hoof polish for shows, too. Using it too often can be drying.

Caitlyn Andrews
Caitlyn Andrews


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