Improving Horse Hooves: Four Tips

Seasonal changes can wreak havoc on hoof health, leaving them cracked, split, or tender. Why so? Prime culprits include increased work, annoying flies that instigate stomping and concussion on hoof walls, and damp conditions that sometimes leave hooves too moist for too long.

Horse owners can implement a few management strategies to keep hooves in tip-top shape in the summertime. Here are four tips:

  • Maintain a relationship with a farrier all year long. Investing in high-quality farriery is rarely money wasted. By keeping ties with a farrier strong throughout the entire year, and not just during the riding season, he will be more likely to answer the call when a loose or lost shoe becomes an issue. (And you know it will, just before the most important ride or competition of the year!) Fair-weather clients are often given back-burner status to those that maintain hooves appropriately, no matter the season. Many farriers advocate a shorter shoeing cycle in the summer to help avoid season-related issues.
  • Provide indoor comfort for horses that are particularly irritated by flying insects. Some horses are more stoic than others and can deal with seasonal creepy-crawlies. Other horses are driven mad and will fence-walk or stomp with sheer determination to rid themselves of flies. Once inside, a gentle breeze will help keep pests from landing. Airflow is best enhanced by large overhead or individual fans. Make sure fans are appropriate for use in barns and are situated in such a way that horses do not have contact with them or their electric cords.
  • Reduce excess moisture on hooves when possible. Horses may be exposed to a lot of moisture in the summer: dewy grass, sudsy baths, summer storms, creeks, and ponds. When hooves are wet for prolonged periods, they swell and become soft. As hooves dry with escalating temperatures, they contract. This swell-shrink cycle can loosen shoes which, in turn, might damage hooves as they work their way off. When this is a potential problem, it is best to keep hooves as dry as possible. Suggestions include sponge baths rather than full-on soapy affairs, strategic turnout to avoid early-morning and late-night dew as well as mud, and application of water-resistant, though not oily, products to the wall and Venice turpentine to the sole.
  • Double-check the diet. The provision of a well-balanced diet ensures that horses consume the correct nutrients for their age and workload. When the diet is on point, so too will hoof growth…usually. Some horses, despite a fine-tuned diet, require nutritional help with hoof growth. In these instances, biotin supplementation is warranted. Hooves respond to other nutrients as well, so a well-formulated hoof supplement should contain zinc, iodine, and methionine, in addition to biotin. One hoof supplement that supplies all of these nutrients is Bio-Bloom PS (Bio-Bloom HF in Australia). Biotin supplementation affects only new hoof growth, so it will not help hooves that are already chipped, cracked, or otherwise damaged.

Written By: Kentucky Equine Research (KER)

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