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Hoofcare in the Spring

Published 1st June 2012

 

As written for Horsemart, May 2012

 

The seasonal fluctuations in the UK bring with them a change in daily routine for many horses and ponies which can have a direct impact on their health, including hooves, if not managed properly. This spring has been particularly unusual! Following quite a dry period the last couple of weeks have been particularly wet.

 

Good basic footcare and hygiene will help to prevent many hoof health issues and, coupled with good farriery, can minimise the impact on your horse’s feet and limbs.

 

Pick out and check your horses hooves daily. Note any changes and check for signs of infection. If your horse is shod are the shoes still fitted securely, have the clenches risen, are the shoes being worn evenly?

 

Water and hydration levels need to be carefully balanced. Too little water and the rigid keratin within the hoof walls becomes dry and brittle as it no longer has the flexibility to perform to the demands placed upon it. Too much, when we experience particularly wet conditions, and the hoof walls and sole become soft.

 

During dry weather the sole and frog will usually thicken and harden to naturally assist the hoof to protect itself. Hooves will continue to grow and keeping up with your regular farrier appointments will help to keep any cracks under control and prevent the hooves from becoming seriously damaged. Be particularly aware riding at speed, or jumping, on hard ground and of turning out and riding on uneven or ‘poached’ ground so as to avoid unnecessary risk of bruising the foot.

 

Topical applications applied once or twice daily can help to provide moisture in particularly dry conditions and repel water in particularly wet conditions.

 

Long periods spent in the stable can lead to an increase in the incidence of fungal infections such as ‘thrush’. Bacteria thrive in the warm, moist conditions that a stable provides and it is important to be vigilant and check hooves on a daily basis for signs of infection and treat them appropriately.

 

Changes in diet can also have a direct impact on hooves. Feeding hay to supplement a reduced grass intake and/or an increase in the quantity of hard feed provided will alter the balance of minerals and vitamins provided in the diet on a daily basis. Poor and slow horn growth may be due to a dietary imbalance and early detection is always beneficial; supplementation of the diet may be beneficial.

 

Work with your farrier

Do build a good relationship with your farrier. Ensure your farrier knows what work you are currently doing and what you intend to do and how your horse is managed – this information is vital so that he/she can shoe the horse appropriately. Raise any questions or concerns you may have and work together to try to resolve them. Provide a suitable environment for your farrier to shoe your horse in (well lit, stood on a clean, flat and hard surface with cover) this will help to ensure your farrier is well placed to do a job to the best of his/her ability.