Feeling puzzled about hoof health?
As is the case with the health and performance of the equine as a whole, their hoof integrity is made up of several ‘puzzle pieces.’ Without one piece, the whole picture may be compromised.
Here are my top four hoof care musts:
A horse must have a quality nutritional intake. Iron, copper, and zinc interactions will greatly influence hoof integrity and growth, as will other vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. It isn’t always about ‘providing enough’ of a specific nutrient, but ensuring it is provided in an appropriate ratio to other nutrients in the diet to prevent secondary deficiencies. Biotin is a key nutrient for supporting hoof integrity, although many fail to understand that a horse is capable of synthesising their own biotin in their hindgut should they be fed a species-appropriate intake that supports healthy microbial fermentation processes. Sugar and starch that is fed inappropriately to the equine can be directly linked to poor hoof health.
A regular trim cycle (3-5 weeks) is vital in ensuring a horse’s hoof integrity and balance is maintained. Allowing a horse to go 6+ weeks without a trim significantly increases their risk of chips, splits, and cracks as a result of poor maintenance. Where these weaknesses and overgrowth begin to form in hooves that have not been kept on a strict trim cycle, we often see an increase in pathologies such as thrush and white line separation.
A horse should have their hooves cleaned with a hoof pick several times weekly (or daily during particularly poor weather conditions) to ensure they are kept free of debris, mud, and pathogens. Regular cleaning allows a thorough assessment of the hoof and can result in early detection of pathologies that may require targeted treatment before they turn into something much worse. A hoof care practitioner will be able to do a much better job if hooves are maintained between trims.
Exercise is so important for hoof integrity and health, and it is one of the most overlooked pieces to the puzzle. Not only does movement promote natural filing of the hoof, it increases circulation around the hoof capsule. Horses stalled or kept in small yards for lengthy periods of time should be exercised regularly (if health permits) to increase blood flow to their hooves.
If a horse’s hoof care is not maintained with regular cleaning and a short trim cycle, their nutritionist cannot be held accountable for compromised hoof health and the recurrence of pathologies.
If a horse is not provided with a species-appropriate diet that is balanced to their individual needs and is not engaging in regular exercise, their hoof care practitioner or farrier cannot be held accountable for the quality and integrity of their hooves.