By Bryan Farcus MA, CJF of “Farrier-Friendly” – A much needed tune-up on your truck or used livestock trailer might be on your “must-do” list. Have you considered the possibility that avoiding horse hoof problems means giving your horse’s hooves similar attention? In the off-season, you may not have noticed some subtle changes in your horse’s hooves.
In an attempt to alleviate any imminent horse hoof problems and complications, I suggest that you include a few extra minutes in your late summer activities to perform a hoof health check-up on your horse. Tips below.
6 Simple Questions to Alert You to Horse Hoof Problems:
1. Do your horse’s feet emit an unpleasant order? Perhaps he is suffering from an anaerobic bacterium that eats away at his frog, causing a condition called “thrush.”
2. Does your horse suffer from a tender, “sore to the touch,” hairline and bulb area, located at the top of his hoof capsule? This condition is known as “greasy bulbs,” which is a form of dermatitis.
3. Are your horse’s hooves appearing more cracked than usual? Hoof cracking can be harmless if it is superficial. More serious cracks will extend upward and reach the coronary band. They may also penetrate through the third stratum of the hoof wall, invading the white line. These types of cracks are considered structural and they are usually associated with a mild form of lameness.
4. Do your horse’s hooves appear to be growing or wearing disproportionately? For instance, overly saturated hoof tissues will lose their structural integrity and tend to collapse and/or flare-out in response to an overgrown or out-of-balance hoof.
5. Does your horse seem to be “off and on” when he travels? In many cases, a horse can suffer from recurring sole bruises, particularly if he comes in contact with extremely rocky or frozen ground. This doesn’t mean that every case requires shoes; perhaps it is a matter of developing a sole callus by following a more routine hoof care program.
6. Does your horse look as though he has put on extra pounds in such places as the crest of his neck, along his top-line or girth area?
Many people forget that grass founder, or springtime laminitis, is not merely a horse hoof problem. Keep in mind that laminitis in horses, more often than not, a dietary or metabolic problem that manifests into what we eventually see as a horse hoof problem. Research indicates that a sudden overloading of the digestive tract from excessive carbohydrates, often due to an excess of spring grass, will result in an increase of blood rushed to the digestive tract. As a result, blood supply to the horse’s feet is compromised, causing the laminae (hoof connective tissues) to die.
Recognizing a Need for Help
Upon a careful examination of your horse’s current situation, if you answered yes to any of the above questions or you’re just not sure what to conclude, your horse can benefit from a visit by your farrier and/or veterinarian. Avoiding horse hoof problems by taking an active role in the management of your horse’s hoof health can go a long way toward ensuring that both you and your horse have the most enjoyable summer possible.
Resources & Reading
The Complete Equine Veterinary Manual, Tony & Marcy Pavord
The Principles of Horseshoeing (P3), Dr. Doug Butler & Jacob Butler
An Excerpt From Buying a Horse Checklist
(With Regard to Horse Hoof Problems):
A horse that has once foundered is prone to foundering again if circumstances are right for it. A vet or farrier will usually be able to tell if a horse has once foundered. In fact, the old adage about horse hoof problems is “no hoof, no horse.” That advice is probably your best insurance when buying a horse. The hooves on a healthy horse are dense and somewhat elastic. Cheap, shelly hooves that are brittle and will not hold a shoe are a constant source of worry and limit the horse’s usefulness as a riding animal.
Published in Countryside September / October 2012 and regularly vetted for accuracy.