The horse’s hoof is a fantastic piece of biological engineering, but it does face a number of challenges, especially when moisture is involved. Ricky Farr MRCVS gives some helpful tips on how to keep your horse’s hooves healthy through the winter with some easy-to follow preventative hoof care measures.
Hoof care tips: coping with winter
1. Pick out and clean hooves daily.
2. To give the hooves the chance to adapt to the typical changes in environmental conditions that occur during the winter, bring horses in from muddy fields for several hours a day to allow the foot to dry out.
3. An unbalanced foot is more prone to developing flares, which results in uneven strain on the hoof wall. Consequently grass/sand cracks can develop, which give organisms access to underlying structures. Skilled farriery is required to maintain healthy hooves, so don’t skip your farrier’s visits, even if your horse isn’t being worked as much during the winter.
4. Assessment of the hoof at rest and during the normal foot flight is essential to maintain this degree of balance. Ask your farrier to assess your horse’s foot in this way regularly.
5. Having the toe rolled and giving heel support can improve sole depth.
6. If possible ensure your horse has access to a dry standing area at all times.
7. Coating the hoof with a sugar and iodine mix is a good way to harden and dry out the sole, although it should be used with care to avoid drying out the hoof too much.
8. While there are nutritional supplements formulated to help support the growth of healthy hooves, they are not designed to manage the moisture content of the horse’s hoof. Instead, the use of barrier creams may help prevent excessive moisture absorption through the sole.
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