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Hoof basics

Tuesday, 09 January 2018

We’ve got a new blogger: Sandra Cartesan from NML Health. Every other month she’ll give you insights in different topics. She will share her knowledge about horses and the products of NML Health. This week we explore everything you need to know about hoofs.

I keep doing it… buy those cute stable shoes or those shiny boots only to conclude that good looks don’t outweigh the blisters. Such a shame. 

Whilst we can kick off those boots and put our legs up, your horse can’t. Day and night those four legs have to carry the weight of the horse. If your horse has had laminitis or thrush you’ll know what it’s like. They have to stand up and there is nothing you can do to alleviate the pain. 

These are extreme examples, but lesser issues can also have great consequences. An incorrect hoof angle can have an impact on the tendons. By alleviating one side, because of an injury, other hoofs or legs might become encumbered. A horse that has hoof pains cannot perform optimally.

What to do?
Make sure your horse gets exercise. The blood circulation in the hoof is minimal. Every time a horse puts its hoof down, the hoof expands and then contracts. This is called the hoof mechanism. Apart from blood circulation it also has a shock absorbing effect. It can be compared to gel insoles in your own shoes. The mechanism is only activated when a horse moves, this is why it is important your horse gets enough exercise. 

Horse shoes
Whether or not you want to use horse shoe depends on your horse and the burden it is under. An advantage of adjusted horse shoes is its ability to correct the hoof angle. However, there are also significant downsides to horse shoes, because to also impede the hoof mechanism. Hoof shoes can provide relief for horses that have difficult to walk on paved roads; hoof shoes can also be used in eventing. Make sure to get all the information you need before making a decision. 

Mind stones and dirt
Proper hygiene and care will get you a long way in hoof care. Make sure to check your horse’s hoof every day, especially when it spends the day outside. Small wounds or tears can have devastating effects as bacteria and mold can find a way in. Picking and cleaning the hoofs is very important. 

Prevent dehydration
Hoofs need to be hydrated regularly. Whilst a stables needs to be clean, long days on stable bedding might result in dehydration. It doesn’t hurt to let your horse loose in a wet paddock or pasture. A simple wash down after a ride isn’t enough to prevent dehydration. The hoofs require time to properly absorb water. Of course you have to balance it, because prolonged exposure to mud and puddles has an opposite effect and might cause other issues. Using hoof balm is no use unless you hydrate first, as it will only prevent the hoofs from absorbing water. Don’t overdo this! 

Check up by the farrier
Regular checkups by the farrier are advised. The farrier can adjust the hoof angle when the horse is unbalanced. Remember though, the hoof grows slowly, so once the hoof angle is off, it takes time to correct this. 

Nutrition and supplements can have a positive influence on hoof growth. Good quality MSM can improve the hoof wall, but there are also supplements to improve blood circulation. 

Several diseases or reduced resistance can have consequences for the hoofs. Horses or pony’s with Cushing disease, EMS and insulin resistant horses are more likely to get laminitis. We’ll look into this further in the next blog. 

In short, six tips to improve the hoofs:
1.Sufficient exercise
2.Daily cleaning
3.Clean bedding
5.See the farrier regularly
6.Proper nutrition and resistance

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