A typical horse spends over 90% of the day on his feet so healthy hooves are essential to keep your horse happy. There are many things that you can do to ensure that your equine friend’s feet are in fine fettle, so read on to discover our top tips for horse and pony owners.
- Pick out your horse’s feet
Never underestimate the importance of picking your horses hooves each and every day, and especially before a ride. Using a hoof pick, work from the heel to towards the toe to gently remove any impacted mud, grass, droppings and stones that may have become lodged as these can cause painful pressure and damage the sole of the hoof. Take great care around the soft v shaped ‘frog’ at the base of the heel, as this area can be very sensitive. Regular hoof examination during picking allows you to spot any signs of damage, thrush or puncture wounds to the foot, cracks or risen clinches in the hoof wall and also check the condition of your horse’s shoes.
- Regular shodding
Shodding is the process of trimming a horses feet and securing horseshoes with nails to protect the delicate hoof sole and provide support to the muscles, ligaments and tendons during exercise. Horses that are regularly ridden should be shod by a qualified farrier every 6-8 weeks or more regularly if their shoes show signs of wear. Farriers will be able to assess the health of the hoof wall and sole, looking for cracks, abscesses or injuries so that the horse can be treated and shod appropriately. Farriers can also correct hoof conditions such as unbalanced feet, boxy feet, flared hoof walls, under-run heels and flat feet using specialist shoes and techniques.
- Feed their feet
Like human nails, horse’s hooves are continuously growing therefore the better nutrition they receive the stronger and faster they will grow. If your horse has particularly weak, dry hooves that are prone to cracks, it is worth adding nutritional supplements such as biotin to a good quality balanced diet to strengthen and support the hoof wall.
- Oil for optimum hydration
Applying hoof oil is not limited to being well turned out at your local riding club show, but instead should be part of your daily routine to help nourish and protect your horse’s hooves from the elements. Hooves are exposed to fluctuating conditions such as wet, muddy fields then are brought in to dry, warm stables and the hoof walls respond to the conditions by expanding and contracting as they soften and dry. Applying an ointment or oil will help to restore moisture levels in your horse or ponies feet preventing cracks and chips, especially in the summer months.
- Exercise and a diet that’s wise
By exercising your horse regularly you will increase the circulation to his hooves which will promote growth and oxygenate the tissues to keep them healthy. Brisk walking and trotting on a hack or in the menage will keep his feet in tip top condition so that they are able to provide cushioning and support for more intensive work such as show jumping. Also ensure that your horse or pony does not carry any extra weight that would put additional pressure on his hooves and potentially result in lameness.