Horse Hooves

June 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

Ever seen the Evil–although she wasn’t evil yet then–Queen ride a horse? In one episode of the TV series Once Upon A Time, the Queen wowed the viewers with her horse-riding capabilities. She’s quite pleased with herself but her mum isn’t, because she “rides like a man”. But gender is already forgotten when riding a horse. Horse riding is horse riding, period.

If you’re interested in horse riding, you might be interested in horse as well. After all, it’s the creature you’re using to experience that happiness in riding. And if your interest in horse riding gets more intense, you might even consider getting your own horse in the future. What follows is, when that horse is already yours, you have to know how to take care of it. Every part of your horse must be well taken care of, even its hooves. Especially its hooves, since it’s feet is the most important part for a horse.

The Basics In Taking Care Of Horse Hooves

“No hoof, no horse!” There is no doubt that you’re pretty familiar with this saying. After all, it’s one of those clichés we just can’t disagree about. Some experts recommend that if you want your horse to be healthy, you have to start with its hooves. So what are the things you must do to be sure that your horse’s hooves are in good condition?

Checking The Feet

The very first thing you must do is to pick out your horse’s feet everyday. This simple activity will help your horse have healthy, disease-free hooves for the most of his life. It may seem a mundane task and you might have doubts if it will change anything, but it may be the single most important thing you can do for the well-being of your horse (aside from feeding it, of course).

So you’re now looking at the feet of your horse. How exactly can you check its health? Do the first check of the overall appearance of the outer hoof. If you would like to see some pictures of healthy horse hooves go to: http://images.google.com and do a search for “healthy horse hooves”, giving you an idea of how healthy hooves must look like.
Check for cracks, abscesses and punctures.
Remove any stones or small objects that may become lodged in the horse’s feet. Don’t forget to check horse’s condition and soles. Are they too hard or do they feel mushy?
If they are too hard they will need more moisture or a good conditioner.
If they are mushy your horse may have thrush, which is a suppuration disorder of the feet.
If you shoe your horse make sure you check for loose shoes, sprung shoes, missing nails and pebbles or debris between the shoe and the hoof.

The Best Time For Hooves-Checking

Here is a quick overview of the best times to check your horse’s hooves.

  • Morning Check

Each morning, remove manure and check for signs of thrush. Don’t forget to check for signs of heat and pulse. If you do this at least twice a day, before riding or exercise, to be sure your horse’s condition and overall health will improve. Also, you will notice early on anything that’s amiss in your horse, giving you extra time to make your horse feel better.

  • After Riding or Exercise Check

Yes, I know you already did this today, but it never hurts to check again. You don’t want to run the risk of causing soreness or injury to your horse because they have a piece of debris lodged in their hoof. Plus your horse will be more comfortable and compliant if they are not in pain, which means you will both have a more enjoyable experience.

  • Evening Check

When you bring your horse in at night, it is important to pick your horse’s feet again. I know it may sound like an unnecessary task, but it is important. Check again for lodged stones, injuries or bruising that may have happened during the day. You never know if a stone’s stuck in its hooves or if it got an injury while you weren’t looking at it.

The Importance Of Nutrition
Proper nutrition helps your horse grow the best possible hooves. Just like people, some horses naturally have better hooves than others. Your horse may have great feet but if he belongs to the unlucky horses that weren’t gifted by natural good hooves, don’t worry, there are things you can do to improve it.

Grass-Hay Diet
It may look very plain and dull but free choice grass and hay diet can be most beneficial for the horse. Horses that are moderately worked and exercised can get all their energy needs from free choice pasture or a good quality hay.

Many nutrients are found in the ‘free range’ choice, such as zinc, sulphur, copper, phosphorus, calcium and more. If your horse has free range access the horse will get all the nutrients it needs to grow healthy strong hooves.

Many horses do not have free range access and if this is the case with your horse, you may want to supplement the horses’ feed with biotin. It has all the nutrients your horse needs to grow strong healthy hooves. Most horses will benefit from this supplement. It is important to use this supplement for at least six months to a year, since that is how long it will take for you to be able to see any of the benefits in new hoof growth.

Horses that work hard, such as endurance racing, sports, etc. may need a higher level of energy. You may want to fine tune his diet with more protein and fiber. With any change in feed rations, it should be gradual. The rule of thumb is a 10% exchange over 4-7 weeks. But not all horses are the same so it will be better to ask your veterinarian what the best feeding program for your horse’s nutritional needs is.

Give your horse consistent exercise. Work on good surfaces, especially at walking and trotting, which increases circulation to your horse’s hooves and promotes health a
and growth.

Check for Signs of Cracks
Cracked hooves is a common problem in horses. Hairline cracks which extend from the ground up toward the horse’s coronet band are less severe. They are usually caused by irregular or absence of trimming. It can also be a result of excessive dryness of the hoof.

If you see cracks starting at the coronary band and continuing down, you have to be alarmed. This is the kind of crack that is more severe. These cracks may be due to an injury of the hoof’s forming tissue of the coronary band itself. If you notice a crack in your horse’s hoof, call your farrier and describe its place and size so he can decide whether it needs attention now or if it can wait until the next regular visit. Although of course, it is highly suggested to treat it now than later or you might find yourself soon wishing you had.

Effect of Cracks
If cracks that are large enough for bacteria to enter are left untreated, they can cause infection to the sensitive tissues of the hoof and do damage to its structure, which can lead to severe lameness or worse.

Treatment and Prevention
For slight cracks, using a good Biotin supplement and good daily maintenance will help.

For more severe cracks your farrier may recommend shoeing or applying fiberglass or plastic to the hoof wall until the crack grows out.

You don’t have to wait for a crack seem to start getting concerned over your horse. Start preventing hoof cracks by regular trimming. Keep your horse’s feet from becoming excessively dry and hard. There are many hoof dressings on the market today that will help keeping your horse’s feet soft and moist. A periodic hoof-soaking in mud will do wonders for your horse’s dry feet. If your horse does not have access to mud you can try letting their water tub overflow a little, just enough for a small muddy puddle.

Puncture Wounds
Puncture wounds are fairly common among horses, but how can you know if your horse has puncture wounds? Some puncture wounds if not detected early enough may cause severe lameness or a permanent disability. Death due to tetanus may also occur if wounds are not properly treated.

An untreated puncture wound will allow bacteria to enter the horse’s system, resulting in mild to severe infection. Abscesses can develop in as short as two days or as long as a month after the first injury.

Picking your horse’s feet on a daily basis will catch this potential problem before severe damage results. Sometimes a nail, wire or other object may pierce your horse’s sole. It may fall out and the entry wound will probably be invisible by the time you pick his feet and you will not be aware of it until is shows up as an abscess.

In some cases the object remains in place, to be discovered when you brush the last bits of dirt from the sole.

Put your horse in his stall. Protect the punctured foot, and help the foreign object stay put either by wrapping or with a slip-on medication boot. Then call your veterinarian right away

An x-ray of the foot can show how far the object has penetrated and which structures are involved. If you pick your horse’s feet out regularly, you’ll find the problem within a few hours of its occurrence. Then your veterinarian can remove the object and recommend a course of treatment.

If your horses digital pulse feels stronger than usual or its foot is warmer than normal to the touch, this is a sign of a possible abscess inside the hoof. An abscess may result from an over looked sole puncture, badly placed shoeing nail or from a bruise or injury.

Supplements for Healthy Hooves

  • DL-methionine is one of the most important amino acids for hoof growth.
  • Biotin is important for hoof growth and repair. It helps in using proteins. Which helps prevent eczema and dermatitis.
  • When deciding on a supplement for your horse look for one that is a good source of A,D,E to help grow healthy hooves.
  • Give your horse access a salt/mineral block that has a good mix of calcium and phosphorous to prevent them form becoming deficient.

If you think your horse has an early case of thrush, Laminitis or another harmful disease, but you are unsure, be sure to ask your blacksmith or veterinarian to look at their feet right away before serious damage can occur. They should be able to easily diagnose and recommend proper treatment for you.

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