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Hoof Care 101
 By Winniefield Park   •   14th Sep 2014   •   2,064 views   •   0 comments
Hoof Care 101

It's trim time for my horse, and I probably drive the farrier crazy. Because she has Thoroughbred feet attached to a Quarter Horse type body, she tends to get sore if trimmed too short. That means I'm hovering over the farrier as he works, reminding him to just do a clean-up, and to not take too much off. By now, I think he knows this, but I can't help but fuss and worry each time.

In the wild, a horse would wear down excess hoof growth as they travel over rough ground. However, our horses need to have their hooves trimmed by a farrier to prevent them from getting too long. On average, most horses will need to be trimmed about every six weeks. Some horses may need more attention, or like mine, you can safely wait about seven or eight weeks. Horses' hooves grow at different rates depending on the season too. In the winter, hooves tend to grow at a slower rate, and may not need to be trimmed quite as often. Some people skip trims during the winter, but this isn't a good idea. Hooves that are left too long can chip and split, the hoof can become misshapen, the horse's grip on slippery surfaces might be compromised and if the angles of the hoof change, it can strain the soft tissues of the legs.

Related: Your Horse from the Ground Up - Part One - The Hoof
Related: Your Horse From the Ground Up - The Lower Leg - Part 1
Related: Your Horse From the Ground Up - The Hindquarters
Related: Natural Farrier Website Gives A Holistic Approach to Hoof Care

There're a few things you can do between trims to help keep your horse's hooves healthy. The most basic is to feed it a good diet. Changes in nutrition can show up on a horse's hooves as ridges that run horizontally around the walls. Or the condition of the hoof overall may change. It isn't unusual to see this on rescue horses that have been starving. Good grass or hay, salt and a mineral supplement, along with fresh water readily available are essential for maintaining good condition.

Frequent cleaning is also essential. This keeps the foot from holding dirt that harbors the microorganisms that start things like thrush and white line disease. You'll also notice any foreign objects that might cause injury such as twigs, rocks or wire bits. Clean the hoof with a hoof pick, starting at the back of the V and working forward. I like to use a stiff brush to clear away the loose dirt, and my handy-dandy lighted hoof pick lets me take a good look at what's going on down there - such as bruising or separations of the hoof wall that might cause problems.

There's some dispute on whether hoof oils should be used. Some people swear by them, some people say they actually dry out the hoof by sealing out the moisture the horse might pick up from puddles or dew on the grass. Moisture is important for your horse's hooves, so you may want to experiment with the best way to go about getting your horse's hooves damp occasionally. Letting the water trough spill over makes your horse walk in a puddle every so often. Dewy grass can be healthy too. But, too much moisture, especially from a dirty stall or muddy paddock can be as damaging as leaving hooves too dry.
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