Your horse, Frank, was trucking along just fine barefoot until you made the move from Arizona to Florida — in the Summer no less. You’ve only been there a couple months, and his hooves are starting to spilt and crack.
Poor, Frank. Why is this happening? And the bigger question is, now what?
Hoof issues are not only concerning, but rather challenging to resolve. Many factors can contribute to your horse’s hoof decline. Here are three questions Frank’s owner — and all other horse owners — should consider when assessing changes in hoof health.
1. Has Your Horse Gone Through an Environmental Change?
In Frank’s case, yes. His owner made the move to the Sunshine State. Unfortunately, Florida’s climate is humid and moist, with scattered afternoon thunderstorms. This drastic change could be a major shock to Frank’s hooves.
Horses initially lived in arid climates; and therefore, relocating them to a damp environment can be a major adjustment. Wet pastures where flies congregate and swarm can weaken your horse’s hooves and make them more prone to breakage.
Horses do have the innate capability to adapt to different environments, but they might need assistance during this acclimation period. You can help your horse through the transition by controlling pests like flies and other bugs (so he or she isn’t constantly stomping), rotating pastures to keep grass long, and keeping mud-prone areas as dry as possible (like by the gate or water tub).
2. Is Your Horse on a Regular Trimming Schedule?
Frank’s owner needs to assess the last time he was trimmed. Was it six weeks ago, or six months ago? Regular trimming is by far the most important part of keeping hooves healthy.
Travis Burns, chief of farrier services at VMCVM, confirms that a regular trimming schedule ranges from every four to eight weeks. Farriers are an essential part of maintaining the shape and length of your horse’s hooves. In addition, they are instrumental in correcting problems, and more importantly, intervening before any issues begin.
3. What Does the Day-to-Day Care of Your Horse Look Like?
Let’s say Frank is a lightly worked gelding who gets eight hours of turnout daily. His owner feeds him a well-rounded adult grain and a great hay blend. She picks his hooves when she goes to ride, but other than that, those feet go au naturel. She has Frank’s best interest in mind, but there is room for improvement.
First, movement results in blood circulation. Thus, some stress on the hooves is a positive thing. Activity results in stronger, healthier growth. This “stress” can be achieved through increased riding, groundwork, or turnout time. So, get your horse out and moving!
Second, food is a key player in hoof health. An ideal meal for the majority of horses would be green grass. However, your horse might not always have access to this nutritious meal. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to your horse’s grain and hay ensuring that they receive a balanced diet.
Third, you need to address hygiene. Clean out those hooves in order to check for issues such as thrush, white-line disease, or an abscess. It is also important to protect your horse when he or she is constantly shifting from wet to dry environments. Consider using a nondrying hoof dressing that repels extra moisture.
Riding on From Here
Frank’s owner makes all of the proper adjustments, but just isn’t seeing the desired results. It might be time for her to weigh the benefits of shoes with her farrier. Even if it is a temporary measure, shoes can offer a greater level of protection to weakened hooves.
As always, it is best to consult with your farrier — as well as your veterinarian — when alarming hoof issues arise. With their helpful insight, you will be able to make the smartest decision for your equine partner.