Hoof Care in Horses

Date Published: 07/02/2012

The old saying "no hoof, no horse" is really true. If your horse's feet have problems, then the horse is basically unusable. Hoof care is critical to prevent lameness problems, and Dr. Robin Dabareiner from Texas A&M indicates in Remuda magazine that the environment has a major effect on the horse's hoof.

Hoof quality can vary from farm to farm in the same area due to different drainage issues and different temperatures can also have an effect. June through August in Texas is usually hot and dry and the horse's feet get extremely dry and hard. Because of this, it is difficult to diagnose a problem such as an abscess, sole bruising, or even laminitis. Most horses will have much slower hoof growth during the hot time of the year and because the hoof dries out, the hoof wall and sole separates and when dirt or sand is pushed into the separation, the hoof wall breaks out leaving the horse walking on the sole and not the wall. This can lead to bruising, abscesses, and hoof wall cracks.
During these dry times, it is important to use a product to increase moisture in the hoof, such as Hoof Maker or Valentines Dressing. It is important to use a lanolin-based product and not an oil-based product as oil can prevent the hoof from breathing. The moisture provided by these products causes the hoof to grow during the dry summer and you can apply these products to the wall and sole every other day during the hot dry summer.

As the weather changes in the fall and winter and we start getting some rain, the hooves get softer and flatten out, which can lead to other problems. As the ground becomes wet, these dry feet pick up moisture, causing the hooves to get softer and the hoof flattens out, which can cause increased bruising. Also, too much moisture can cause the hoof wall to separate. Dr. Dabareiner uses a good analogy of this syndrome by comparing it to separating in same way that wet plywood separates. When the wall breaks off, nails for the shoe must be placed even higher, and that further weakens the wall. This can lead to white line disease, abscesses, thrush, or canker.

Treatment required is drying out the hoof wall and sole so the first thing to do is get the horse out of the water and into a dry stall. Applying a product like Durasole to the hoof wall and sole can aid in drying the hoof. Even wet dew on the grass can cause enough moisture to create a problem. In the morning, the feet get wet and then dry out in the afternoon, and then they are wet again the next morning and the cycle continues. The hoof wall separates, nails loosen, and the horse loses a shoe and maybe the farrier is blamed but in most cases it is not the farrier's fault.

The same problem can occur when horses at pasture in the summer walk into the farm pond to drink and get their feet wet and then the feet dry out. All of this leads to brittle, cracking hoof walls. When owners see the hooves cracking, they may let their water trough run over to try to water the feet. But watering only compounds the problem and the best treatment is to use a hoof sealant to seal the feet.

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