February is International Hoof Care Month
Why Hoof Care is Important
Your horse relies on your care and commitment to keeping them healthy. One of the most important parts of caring for your horse is to help them maintain healthy hooves. Hoof care should be a priority for all horse owners, especially those of senior equines. Horses depend on healthy feet to maintain proper leg function, stability, and overall health.
Horses use their hooves in almost everything they do. Whether nourishing their bodies, playing in the field or going for a ride, horses require healthy hooves to support themselves. Overgrown, imbalanced, or over-trimmed hooves can all cause lameness when a horse alters its gait to prevent the affected limb from bearing too much weight. Lameness can prevent horses from living a healthy lifestyle. Without the ability to run and play in the field, horses may develop other, more severe, issues.
As horses age, their hooves grow slower, and they tend to become less active. With that said, it is easy for owners to undermine the importance of hoof health in their elderly horses. Although no specific hoof problems are correlated with aging, older horses are prone to arthritis, stiffness, and joint pain. Regular hoof care can help limit the effects of these issues.
Tips for Hoof Health
Keep Hooves Balanced
For horses to move comfortably, their hooves must be trimmed so that the foot lays flat. In senior horses, unbalanced hooves can cause poor posture, uneven gait, sore muscles, and more. Most horse owners rely on their farriers for this task, but it is always important to communicate any concerns of your own.
Pick Out Your Horse’s Hooves
It is necessary to pick out your horse’s hooves regularly. All horse owners must know how to do this and what to look for while picking. Before and after each ride, remove any debris, pebbles, wood chips, etc., from your horse’s hooves. Without regular picking, your horse may feel discomfort and develop an infection in more severe cases.
Keep Your Horse Moving
Similar to humans, as horses get older, their bodies weaken, and they are prone to joint pain, stiff muscles, and weaker bones. In order to limit the inevitable effects of aging, you must keep your horse active. Exercise promotes circulation and stimulates hoof growth in senior equines. It is recommended to walk your horse on smooth surfaces and, as previously mentioned, regularly pick your horse's hooves.
Hoof issues can be an indicator of an imbalanced diet. Horses require good nutrients to build strength in their hooves and, ultimately, improve their quality of life. Most hay and grasses contain the vitamins your horse needs; however, many horses lack essential minerals. Aside from a balanced diet, zinc, copper, vitamin E, and biotin can increase your horse's wellness and hoof health.
Know Your Horse
As a horse owner, it is vital to know your horse and be able to identify when something seems to be bothering them. If your horse seems lethargic, moody, limping, or in any type of pain, it is a good idea to check your horse’s hooves. When checking their hooves, look for bruising, shearing, thrush, abscesses, and cracks. When these symptoms show up, they may be an indicator of an injury or bacterial infection and will require extra care.
Schedule Regular Visits
Although there is a lot you, as a horse owner, can do for your horse, it is still important to schedule regular visits with your equine veterinarian and farrier. Depending on the time of year, senior equines should have their hooves trimmed every 6-8 weeks. Additionally, senior equines should have checkups at least twice a year. However, if you or your farrier notice something off with your horse’s hoof, you should contact your vet as soon as possible to stop any serious issues from occurring.
At Ryerss Farm, our business is caring for aged, abused, or injured horses, providing a home where they can spend their golden years out to pasture. All of our horses’ needs are met, including farrier, veterinarian, and dental care, as well as routine inoculations and medications. In addition to routine hoof care, our farrier also offers pedicures for the happy horses of Ryerss. Want to treat your favorite Ryerss horse to a pedicure? Follow the link to make a donation and pamper a resident of your choosing. It’s the perfect way to show your love for International Hoof Care Mont!