Putting the Foot Back on the Horse
By Tab Pigg, CJF
To sustain optimal hoof health, the horse’s feet must be regularly trimmed and maintained. Without proper care, the feet can develop conditions such as too much toe or too much heel, and the horse can suffer discomfort or even infection, resulting in costly treatment. When this happens, it is essential to provide the support and maintenance necessary to return the hooves to a healthy state.
The primary cause of unhealthy hooves is lack of regular maintenance. Sometimes keeping up with a regular trimming schedule is challenging and hoof care is put on the back burner. But to keep the horse comfortable, and to prevent infections or expensive repair work in the long run, a regular six-week trimming schedule must be maintained.
Since unhealthy hooves can be the result of poor conformation, be mindful of the horse’s body structure. If the horse is unbalanced, or is base-wide or base-narrow, the feet may need more frequent trimming than the average maintenance schedule calls for. Because the frequency of hoof care depends on the horse, and every horse is different, always consider the horse’s conformation to ensure the hooves are getting proper attention.
Repair missing or damaged hoof wall (left) with Adhere.
The most common symptoms of unmaintained and unhealthy hooves and soles include:
- Flaring: The hooves may flare, either toe-in or toe-out.
- Discomfort: The horse is visibly uncomfortable when walking or noticeably less active.
- Chipping or cracking: The hooves develop obvious chipping or cracking in the hoof wall.
- Infection: Thrush or white line disease have developed. Thrush is a bacterial infection that can be detected by a strong odor coming from the hoof, whereas white line disease is determined by a deep separation between the hoof wall and the sole. Both conditions can lead to lameness. All necessary steps should be taken to prevent or treat these infections.
Improve foot health by protecting the sole and frog, maintaining consistent moisture levels, and increasing sole depth.
Treating Unhealthy Hooves
The horse may need one or two aggressive trims before going back to a regular six week maintenance schedule. To speed up the healing process, the horse owner can use pour-in pad and adhesive materials to help repair the feet.
If lack of regular hoof maintenance caused damage to the hoof wall, hoof care professionals can use an adhesive to seal cracks, or apply filler in areas with missing hoof wall. If a crack appears to be an exposed wound or is infected, it’s important that the area is cleaned and left uncovered to heal, and treated by a hoof care professional or veterinarian. If it is not infected, Vettec Adhere can be applied over a crack to help close the gap, or even act as missing hoof wall. Adhere is designed to fabricate large and small hoof wall repairs, and can be bonded to the hooves while a horse is standing.
For shod horses with weakened hoof walls, pour-in pad materials like Equi-Pak CS can help take pressure off of the hooves and center a horse’s weight. Equi-Pak CS is a fast-setting soft instant pad material, and is infused with copper sulfate. It provides extra protection and support, and also bonds to the sole. For barefoot horses, Sole-Guard helps to increase sole depth and add protection to weak soles. Sole-Guard is a 30-second-setting liquid urethane hoof protection material that is easy to apply, durable, and can last up to three weeks.
Ongoing maintenance of the horse’s hooves is vital to its comfort and well-being. To avoid costly treatment and procedures, it is crucial to maintain horses on a regular trimming schedule year-round. Solar support, pour-in pad, and adhesive products can aid in the recovery process and be a valuable tool for maintaining optimal hoof health.
To learn more, visit the Vettec Hoof Care website.
This information was contributed by Vettec Hoof Care.