The age old saying, ‘no hoof, no horse’ still holds true today. The number one cause of lameness in horses stems from hoof problems. Understanding equine hoof care is essential to keep your horses hooves healthy and to prevent lameness and disease. Hoof care involves both proper external maintenance of hooves, combined with a correct, well-balanced diet to ensure that your horse is provided with the necessary nutrients to build healthy hooves from within.
As the weight of a horse is carried squarely on its hooves, any problems with the hooves can result in a lame horse. Problems arise when hooves are not correctly maintained, or when a horse spends prolonged periods in wet conditions and the hooves are not cleaned out regularly. Damp, dirty hooves provide the ideal conditions for bacterial infections to take hold. These can cause a horse a lot of pain and discomfort.
Hoof Problems in Horses
Horses can suffer from a number of different hoof problems, including dry, cracked hooves or soft, crumbly hooves. Dry hooves are often the result of insufficient exercise, moisture, and nutrition, while soft hooves may be as a result of spending a prolonged period in wet muddy conditions or standing for lengthy periods in a stable containing wet bedding. In addition, damp conditions make a horse prone to thrush, a fungal infection that destroys the sole of the hoof.
Preventing Hoof Problems
Prevention is better than cure, so take precautionary measures to ensure that your horses hooves are cleaned daily – picking out mud, bedding, manure, and any sticks and stones that may have become embedded in the frog of the hoof. Clean out your horses stable daily, providing a fresh layer of dry bedding for your horse to stand on, to prevent hoof rot from setting in.
Provide your horse with a well-balanced diet to provide the necessary nutrients to grow healthy hooves to combat disease. A hoof supplement can be added to the diet to provide additional nutrients to speed up hoof growth or to assist with hoof recovery in the event of injury or disease. A hoof supplement will typically contain additional minerals and nutrients, such as zinc and biotin, that promote the growth of keratin, from which the hoof is formed.
Treating Hoof Problems in Horses
If your horses hooves become dry and cracked, apply a moisturizing hoof cream or hoof oil, which will penetrate the hoof to nourish the hoof and alleviate this problem. For soft hooves, a hoof supplement may be necessary to promote hoof growth, combined with the external application of a hoof hardener, and an anti-fungal treatment to prevent thrush. To treat a thrush infection in horses hooves, apply a specially formulated disinfectant suitable for horses to kill the bacteria that are causing the infection. Stockholm tar applied externally can be used in the prevention and treatment of a number of hoof conditions. It is useful for sealing cracked and split hooves to prevent further cracking, and it helps combat thrush and other bacterial infections.
Promoting Healthy Hooves
To promote healthy hoof growth, provide your horse with the nutrition it needs – a well-balanced diet, and possibly a hoof supplement to repair damaged hooves or to encourage growth of strong hooves. Ensure that the hooves are picked out daily with a hoof pick, that housing and bedding is dry, and if necessary apply external hoof remedies to both prevent and treat hoof conditions.