One of the most important phrases when it comes to horses is, ‘No foot, no horse’. Lack of hoof care will shorten a horse’s working life considerably.
Horse hoof care is a vital task that you have to complete on a daily basis. A horse’s hoof essentially supports the weight of the entire animal, so irregular care for it can lead to many unnecessary injuries that can easily be avoided. As a horse owner, it is your job to provide care and attention to your horse’s hoof to ensure that it performs the job it is designed to do. The hoof is a complex aspect of a horse’s anatomy which is why this article will discuss:
- The anatomy of a horse’s hoof
- Horse hoof care procedures
- The importance of hoof picking
- Final comment
Anatomy of A Horse’s Hoof
Before we begin with effective hoof care practises, it is important to understand the anatomy of a horse’s hoof. A horse’s hoof comprises of a number of different components, primarily consisting of the wall, sole and the frog. Each part plays a crucial part in the functioning of a horse which has been detailed below:
The wall is the part of the hoof that is visible when the horse is standing. It covers the toe (front), quarters (sides) and the heel. It adds a tough, protective layer around delicate internal parts of the hoof. The wall helps to support the weight of the horse and absorbs shock as the horse moves around. The wall varies in thickness from 6-12mm depending on your horse’s breed and natural genetics. They also do not contain any blood vessels or nerves.
Sole And Frog
When the foot is lifted off the ground, the sole and frog are exposed as well as the bars of the wall and the collateral grooves.
The frog is the V-shaped section pointing down from the heels. Its function is to provide protection to the pad beneath it. It acts as a shock absorber when the horse moves. The frog is made up of sensitive nerves which communicate to your horse the position of their feet so they can move fluidly.
The sole sits on the underside of the hoof and its concave shape means it does not make contact with the ground or bear any weight. This aspect of a horse’s hoof also helps to protect the inner components of the hoof. It also has a section called the ‘white line’ which, if injured or infected in any way, can cause unwanted germs and bacteria to enter and separate the layers of the hoof wall.
Horse Hoof Care Procedures
Now that you are more clued up with the basic anatomy of a horses hoof, let’s look at the top hoof care procedures you should be frequently applying to your horse. By following this checklist and understanding some of the signs of common hoof problems in your horse, you can keep any unwanted bills to a minimum and keep your horse’s well-being maintained:
- Apply hoof oil every other day during the warmer months to prevent splits and cracks in the hoof
- Use a high-quality hoof pick to pick out your horse’s feet on a daily basis and one that can withstand some level of resistance
- Book a visit with a farrier every 4-6 weeks
- In unshod horses, the sole of the foot should not be making contact with the ground, if this is not the case, it is advised to seek professional attention
- If your horse shows any sign of lameness (abnormality in the horse’s movement) after a visit with a farrier, contact them back immediately to rectify the problem
- The sides of the frog should be trimmed so that it is level or slightly below the edge of the hoof wall
- Always take the time to inspect your horse’s feet after the farrier has visited. The toe clips should also be even with the hoof wall
The Importance of Hoof Picking
Failure to comply with effective hoof picking protocol can lead to a magnitude of problems down the line and you could quickly find yourself with a hefty bill from the vets for emergency treatment. As such, we have briefly listed the importance of hoof maintenance below:
Firstly, irregular hoof care can lead to your horse’s hoof walls to chip or break and as your horse’s toes grow, the white line will diminish in usefulness. Consequently, bruising or the development of a sole abscesses can occur which will become problematic in the future and cause major discomfort for your horse.
Failing to pick your horse’s hoof during wet climates can cause the feet to become soft and unhealthy which leads to conditions such as thrush. If mud, clay, rocks or sticks get lodged in the cracks and crevices in the horse’s hooves, it can create sole pressure that bruises and creates sensitivity and will cause your horse to show signs of lameness.
A final comment to end this article is that there’s always the chance of getting kicked when you’re inspecting your horse’s hoof, especially for inexperienced riders. If this is the case, you should seek advice from a more knowledgeable owner. They should be able to teach you the best, or their preferred method, on lifting a horse’s hoof or, you can pinch/twist your horse’s chestnut just enough to make them notice. This should cause the horse to lift its foot up in response. Just be sure to release the pressure of the chestnut when you have full control of the hoof to avoid hurting your beloved companion.