Moving into summer means owners will need to be on top of hoof care if they are to ensure ongoing health for their horses.
The hoof wall, the outer layer, is tough and horn-like, and can be susceptible to extremes of both wet and dry, and needs to be kept in good condition so it can do its job of protecting the inner part of the hoof. The sole and frog of a horse’s hoof can be vulnerable to wet and dirty ground, sharp objects and bruising, and needs constant vigilance to ensure good hoof health.
Good horse hoof care is a mixture of daily maintenance and longer-term measures.
Daily horse hoof care
You should clean your horse's hoofs daily, whether they are stabled, live out in a paddock, shod or not. They pick up small objects quite easily which can injure the soft parts of the hoof, while compacted material left to build up can cause thrush and other issues.
- Pick up each foot, and clean out any mud, straw, manure, etc. Use the tip of a hoof pick to carefully ease any compacted material out from around the frog, and check that there is no bruising, or anything lodged in under the edges of the frog.
- In addition to a regular daily clean, check and clean your horse’s hoofs before and after a ride, and check their shoes for any loose nails.
- If your horse is stabled, muck out daily, to ensure that you don’t have bedding that gets chronically damp underfoot.
- Ensure your horse has access to plenty of clean fresh water. Overall hydration contributes to the hoofs being well hydrated, which helps prevent the wall becoming dry and cracking.
- If the weather is very dry, offer your horse access to water they can stand in, as the hoof wall can then soak up some moisture. Overfilling drinking troughs can create accessible puddles, or you can seek out waterways when you’re out riding.
Longer term horse hoof care
As well as your daily maintenance, you need to make sure you stay on top of the long-term care of your horse.
- Look for an experienced, well qualified farrier and be prepared to set up a regular schedule of visits. On average, you should have the farrier come every six weeks, whether your horse is shod or not. During warmer months, some horse’s hooves can grow faster, so you might need to move that up to four or five weeks if that’s the case. As well as shoeing, your farrier will trim your horse’s hooves to help ensure that they’re well balanced, and hitting the ground evenly in every gait.
- Ensure adequate nutrition. Poor nutrition can lead to poor hoof health. If your horse has an identified long-term issue with hoof health, supplements might be warranted. This should be discussed with your farrier and/or vet.
- Keep up the exercise. Regular exercise is good for your horse’s health overall. But steady walking and trotting can help increase circulation which will promote good hoof growth. Try to avoid hard, dry terrain over summer where you can. And be aware that sand can be very drying for hoofs, so if you ride a lot on sandy soil, or on the beach, you might want to consider adding a good hoof oil to your maintenance regime.
- Stay on course. Once you and your farrier have a hoof care regime that is working for your horse, stick to it, particularly if there’s been an issue that’s been corrected.
Riding through the summer can be some of the best times you can have with your horse. Keep up your care of their hoofs, and that time can be trouble free!