Fundamentals of Proper Hoof Care
By Hugh Dillon, DVM
It is not enough to just call a farrier and have him shoe your horse. One of the most basic requirements of responsible ownership is to understand and practice proper horse hoof care. Your horse is not going to ask you to clean and care for his feet and this means that you must be aware of how to keep those hooves in good working condition.
Let's begin at the very first step of good horse hoof care. This is where the owner and rider should take the time to clean the hooves and remove any trapped muck, debris, pebbles, or other objects that may have lodged in the hoof area.
It might surprise you to discover that many horses are being placed back in their stable without anyone checking their hooves at all. Somehow a lot of inexperienced horse owners have come to believe that cleaning the hooves is something that only a farrier should be responsible for doing.
Just spending a few minutes cleaning your horse's hooves with a hoof pick is all that you need to do each day. This will keep your horse healthier and more comfortable. You can check for any possible injury to the hooves while you clean them. Removing any dirt, mud, or other caked substances from the hoof allows the animal to walk about comfortably.
Clean hooves are far less likely to develop unchecked cuts, stone bruises, or thrush infections. Even a very small pebble can get trapped among the curved grooves of the frog. When this type of incident happens it can result in painful bruising and cause your horse to limp.
Ideally you should be cleaning the hooves of your horse once or twice each day. The hooves need to be checked and cleaned before the horse is taken for a ride and immediately before the animal is stabled after a ride has been completed.
While this may not always be possible, good horse hoof care dictates that all horses have their hooves inspected and cleaned at least twice a week.
For proper hoof care you need to make sure that the paddock area is well drained and the stable floor is clean and dry. Damp flooring and standing in wet muck for long periods of time are factors that are only going to damage your horse's feet. When the hooves of a horse are constantly being subjected to a damp environment, then cracks and chips of the hooves will be the result.
If you need to prevent further cracking and splitting of your horse's hooves it may be necessary to apply a dressing. This should not be done very frequently, but a proper hoof dressing to the frog, coronet, heel, and hoof wall will be able to trigger the growth of healthy new tissue. However, no one should expect a hoof dressing to be the first line of defense when it comes to good hoof care.
Always schedule your horse for routine checkups with a local farrier. This is one of the best ways to make sure that your horse will have healthy feet and hooves.
Trimming of the hooves should be done regularly. Five to eight weeks is the normal amount of time that a horse can go without needing his hooves trimmed. Wild mustangs are able to keep their hooves trimmed naturally by running across rough surfaces and living in harsh environments but our domesticated animals are dependent on us to provide them with proper care for their hooves.
Not all horses require shoes, but you should ask a farrier for his opinion before you select whether or not to have the animal shod. Horseshoes can protect the hooves of an animal that is going to be ridden on tough surfaces and rough terrain.
Many horses that are retired to pasture or are rarely ridden will be able to do fine without any type of shoes being applied. Regular trimming services every one to two months may be all that these animals need from a farrier.
To put it plain and simple, professional hoof trimming is an essential part of good horse hoof care. Just like human fingernails, the hooves of a horse can become overgrown and elongated if regular maintenance and trimming are not being practiced.
This can result in unsightly hooves that are cracked, brittle, or become split. In any of these cases they will cause discomfort and pain for the animal and uncared for hooves could even lead to lameness or other injuries.
Let the farrier shape and trim the hooves of your horse according to what the animal needs. Keep the stalls and stables clean and dry. Check and clean the hooves of your animal on a regular schedule. These are the elements that are necessary if you want to make sure that your horse has good balance, physical comfort, and healthy feet.
Article Source: www.EzineArticles.com
Main Photo: Betsy Greene, University of Vermont; Courtesy of eXtensionHorses/Flickr