Tips on horse hoof care
Keep your horses sure-footed with a regular pedicure.
A hoof pick is probably the most important tool in a horse grooming kit. The hooves need to be picked out after every ride or walk to prevent infection and sore spots. Use the pick from the top of the hoof toward the back. Don’t go the opposite way, you could push something in further and cause an injury.
Hooves grow like toenails and need to be trimmed every six-to-eight weeks. Dr. Ed Johnson is an extension horse specialist at the University of Florida. He says unless you know exactly how to trim hooves, have a farrier do it.
"It does take some skill and it takes tools and if you don’t practice it, obviously you have difficulty with your tools and your ability to look at a foot and determine if it’s level and of course most people don’t know how much to remove," says Johnson.
While you’re looking over the hoof, check for corns, bruises, and abscesses, too.
The most important result of caring for horses’ hooves is that the foot is balanced and level. For some horses, this means putting shoes on them. You might believe letting him go barefoot is best, but Johnson says it depends on what you’re doing with the horse.
"The number one reason you would put shoes on a horse is because the foot wears away faster than it replenishes itself, or they wear away uneven, or if you need traction or if you need protection," says Johnson. "I mean there’s any number of reasons that you might shoe a horse. A lot of horses live their entire life without ever having any shoes on and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that."
Horses that stand on hard surfaces, or those that are worked or ridden a lot are usually shod. They may also need shoes if they have weak hooves, flat feet, or cracked hooves. Most horses need routine shoe care every five-to-six weeks.
Basic hoof care for horses: This tutorial, written by Dr. Johnson, explains how to maintain healthy hooves and why it's so important.
Hoof anatomy: All the parts of a horse hoof and how they work
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