During the winter months the health of our horses hooves, amongst other things, can suffer in the rain, wind and snow, and we all know the old sentiment “No foot, no horse” is as true today as it was many years ago. The Soaker takes a look at how to maintain hoof health, highlighting the most common hoof problems allowing horse owners to get informed, and avoid these universal equine issues.
Mid-winter can bring snow, rain, hail and sleet which can result in wet and muddy conditions for our equine companions. Superficial issues such as mud clots and ice balls in the hooves can cause problems and prolonged wet conditions can cause our horse’s feet to become soft and susceptible to more serious problems.
Thrush is a bacterial infection typically resulting from mud and manure causing damage to the hooves. Thrush is typically characterised by a foul smelling black discharge from the frog and a softer or irregular shaped frog. Tending to affect the central sulcus of the frog, thrush can extend out into the frog tissue and also evolve into the heel area and the medial and/or lateral sulcus of the frog. Thrush can be extremely detrimental to horses’ health; damaging the vital hoof structures alongside resulting in pain and affecting soundness.
The main factors causing thrush are excessive hoof contact with moisture. In most cases, thrush is preventable by maintaining dry footing, clean hooves, and regular turnout or exercise. One of the best tips for cleaning up thrush...Ivory bar soap and a scrubber. You heard it here.
Hoof bruising occurs for many reasons, from thin soles or hoof imbalances or walking over rocky terrain. Bruised feet can also be caused in snowy weather when ice compacts in the hooves so always pick your horse’s feet out daily during snowy weather, even if you are not riding!
To understand the damage to the hoof caused by saturation visualise the structure of the hoof horn, made up by keratin molecules held together with intermolecular bonds. When this is saturated it swells and expands stretching and weakening the hoof. The reduction in molecular integrity can result in hoof cracks when the feet dry out and contract back to their regular size and shape. To avoid your horse’s hooves becoming saturated some time in the stable is usually necessary, allowing the hoof to dry. Coat the hoof generously with leather cream before returning to the wet- this makes your horses hooves weatherproof...just like your Dubarrys..
Remember our equine’s diet is the basis of their health and this goes for hoof health too! For the equine hoof to flourish always ensure you include sufficient proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals and the all important macro nutrient, water in the diet.
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