Did you know 20% of horses have poorly structured hooves which is often unseen from the outside? This can have adverse effects such as soundness, good mobility, everyday movement and shoe retention.
With different seasons comes different hoof needs. While you won’t get ice balls in Summer, you still need to keep up the care of their hooves.
Winter: what to expect?
A sodden environment can bring challenges to winter hoof care, causing problems such as mud clods and ice balls.
Ice balls build up quickly under horses’ hooves. Snow and ice warm up against the sole but freeze against the cold metal of the shoe, causing an ice or snow ball. If you’re not going to be riding much this winter, consider letting your horse go barefoot; or you can add anti-snowball pads which are effective at keeping out the snow and ice.
Prolonged wet conditions can cause soft feet to become susceptible to more serious issues, including hoof wall separation, thrush and sole abscesses.
The best way to avoid hoof problems is daily care and observation; it’ll help you notice any changes before a problem becomes more serious.
Spring: get moving
With the cold weather turning mild and daylight hours increasing, it’s time to start increasing your horse’s activity levels. In the winter, if you’re unable to give your horse insufficient exercise and expose them to the same flooring, there’s no physiologic stimulus to grow a strong foot.
Many horses are overfed, so spring is the perfect time to evaluate their weight, access to pasture and the type of food they’re eating. Like in people, a horse’s diet can affect their body on the outside, including their hooves. Ensuring that your horse is getting all the nutrients they need from their diet, and simultaneously looking after their hooves regularly, can help you avoid a more serious problem in future. Try to exercise your horse daily, or at the very least, avoid waiting until the weekend.
Summer: fast and loose scheduling
While you may want to stick to a shoeing schedule, your horse’s hooves need trimming more frequently, as they tend to grow faster during the summer months. Your farrier will tailor scheduling to your horses needs, but as long as you keep track of hoof growth and communicate with your farrier, there’s nothing to worry about.
The British summer is unpredictable, and this can wreak havoc with your horse’s hooves. As they’re exposed to water, they’ll expand and soften, however when the conditions become dry, their hooves will contract; this can cause nails to loosen and cracks to appear. Although we can’t control the weather, make sure your horse’s hooves are exposed to minimal moisture.
- Only sponging your horse’s sweat patches after riding, instead of hosing them down
- Check your horse’s bedding and look for absorbent material
- Make sure the drainage around the paddock is suitable
Travel can cause stress to your horse which can affect their immune system response, too. And changes can show in the hoof. Ensure you continually check for problems to avoid surprises.
With autumn the ground hardens, and the weather starts to cool. You’ll find your horse’s hooves have a slower rate of growth than in the spring and summer. This is partly because your horse exercises less, and the forage feed value is lower.
As with any changes, a poor diet can show up on the hoof; so, compensating for the lack of nutritional value of the grass feeding through vitamins and minerals will help keep them in shape.
The weather becomes wetter, and now more than ever is the time to get into a routine of keeping your horse dry and happy; change the bedding regularly and don’t allow them to stand in wet conditions for long. This will help you prepare for winter, ensuring your horse is happy and healthy.
Before you make any drastic changes to your horse’s routine or diet, consult your vet for any further advice on how to keep their hoofs healthy.