Preparing hooves for winter
Radio interview source: Dr. Stephen O'Grady, Equine Podiatrist, Northern Virginia Equine
It's hard for mepeople to walk across a sheet of ice, even with the proper footwear. Horses have two more legs to worry about and all four feet are vulnerable to injury. They can slip on ice, and the snow can pack into a painful ball under their hooves.
Horse owners need to pay special attention to hoof care during the winter. The decision to use shoes depends on the situation. But Equine Podiatrist Steve O'Grady says if you prefer the horse to wear shoes during the winter, add an extra traction device to the bottom of the shoe.
"Shoes can have different kinds of stud or roughened surfaces, or they make a product called 'snow pad' which goes underneath the shoe and forms a rim around the inner perimeter of the shoe, keeps snow from packing up or balling up in the bottom of the foot, and at the same time does prevent slippage as well," O'Grady says.
The horse may have better traction if it's shoeless. However, the hooves will be exposed to frozen terrain, which may cause bruising of the sole, and chipping and cracking of the hooves. Have a hoof pick on hand to clean out debris such as mud, rocks, and snow.
Hooves don't grow as fast in the winter, so there may be a greater length of time between trimmings, but it still has to be done on a regular basis.
"All we do basically is keep the outer hoof wall rounded and concentrated underneath the horse's bone," O'Grady says. "In other words so we don't allow flares, or extra length to grow on the hoof. But basically, we don't take very much off their hoof when they're barefoot, in other words we let nature take it off."
Not all horses have the same kind of hoof and require the same maintenance. So develop a care regimen with your farrier and veterinarian this winter.
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