September 2017 - Hoof Care Tips

Simple steps provide powerful prevention.

by Clay Campbell

Clean the Hooves
This is arguably the most important step individuals can take to maintain their horses hoof health. Using a simple hoof pick, remove any dirt, debris, rocks, manure, etc. Cleaning out your horse’s feet daily helps insure that foreign objects do not damage the foot causing soreness, abscesses, or punctures. Clean until the sole’s surface is completely visible. For added clarity, finish cleaning with a stiff or wire brush. Use this opportunity to check for any soft or smelly parts of the hoof. Issues such as thrush and white line disease are far more treatable when caught early. Also, this helps your horse get used to having a person work with his foot. A calmer horse that stands for the farrier isn’t just safer to work on, it also provides a better baseline for evaluating soreness.

Check The Shoes
If your horse is shod, check that the shoes are fitted tightly to the foot. To check the shoe’s fit: If the shoe has shifted left or right and does not align with the hoof wall or is not sitting firmly against the bottom of the foot, the shoe could be putting pressure on the nails in such a way to cause pain or discomfort. The shoe will need to be removed by the farrier and reset.

Also, look for loosened clinches, being careful of any sharp edges. When a farrier drives a nail, he will cut off the excess nail from the outside of the hoof wall, then bend over a tiny bit to hold the nail and shoe tightly in place; the remaining bent part of the nail is the clinch. Ideally a clinch will be snug against the hoof wall with any sharp edges rasped away. If a clinch becomes loose, the excess metal could pose a hazard to the horse or any person picking up their foot. Unless you have the proper tools and training, it is unwise to attempt to correct a clinch or remove a shoe yourself.

Watch Your Horse’s Diet
Your horse’s diet can directly impact hoof wellness, especially overfeeding. Talk to you vet about making sure you are meeting your horse’s nutritional needs appropriately.

Environment
The hoof is a living, dynamic structure and it responds very rapidly to its environment. Be mindful of your horse’s footing wherever they are and be sensitive to changes in footing. For example, a horse that has been stall-bound or on soft damp ground, will probably have a hard time adjusting to a rocky trail or pavement. Such a shift can cause soreness or other issues. If you anticipate such a change, help your horse by building up to it.

Perhaps start with a short walk on firmer ground for a few days, then add time and distance, then add the rider. A few days to a week, depending on your horse, can really help him cope with any upcoming changes.

Generally speaking, dampness is not your horse’s friend when it comes to the feet. As much as is practically possible, avoid extended exposure to muddy ground, damp stall bedding, or any wet environment that can soften and distort the hoof capsule.


Article courtesy of Clay Station Farrier Services, which serves the Greater Los Angeles area. For more information, visit www.claystationfarrier.com.