It can be easy to take your horse’s hooves for granted, and many horse owners don’t think about hoof health until their horse has a problem. While supporting healthy hooves may not sound particularly exciting, it’s an essential part of horse care. Strong, resilient hooves are necessary for your horse’s performance and comfort now, and for years to come.
Your horse’s hooves are constantly growing and changing, and need regular support to be at their best. The four key factors that impact hoof health are regular maintenance from a qualified hoof care professional, plenty of exercise and activity, smart management for climate and environment, and proper nutrition.
Let’s look at each of these areas in more detail, to understand how they impact your horse’s hoof health.
Regular, Professional Maintenance
Whether your horse is barefoot or shod, consistent attention from a qualified hoof care professional is imperative to maintaining a properly balanced foot. A long, unbalanced hoof will negatively impact your horse’s optimal way of going, putting undue strain on the joints, tendons and ligaments of the entire limb. Don’t think of hoof care as just hoof care. Maintaining a healthy hoof is critical to the whole horse’s health.
Exercise and Activity
Feet on the move are healthy feet! Turnout time and exercise are critical to ensuring your horse’s hooves receive the normal circulation they need to grow strong and stay healthy.
Frequent shifts from wet to dry in the environment can cause the hoof wall to expand and contract, which may lead to cracks and other structural problems, so try to limit changes from wet to dry as much as possible.
Nutrition is another area of hoof health that can’t be ignored. The hoof you feed today is the hoof you’ll be riding on a year from now, which is why daily support from a quality supplement is a smart way to support healthy hooves all year long. Research has shown that supplementing with 10-30 mg of biotin per day may help support growth rate and quality of hoof wall. Also look for a hoof supplement to provide essential amino acids such as lysine, methionine and threonine, as well as the minerals copper and zinc.
Your horse’s hooves contain a complex system of blood vessels. This vascular network is a critical element in maintaining foot health. Keeping the hooves properly balanced, allowing adequate opportunity to move throughout the day, and providing a balanced diet all play a vital role in maintaining healthy circulation to the feet.
Like fingernails, the hoof wall is composed of dead tissue, so it can’t mend and heal. Damaged sections have to grow out and be replaced with new, healthy tissue. New growth originates at the coronary band, and it may take up to a year to grow an entirely new hoof wall. This is why keeping up with regular visits from your farrier, being smart about your horse’s environment and exercise, and providing adequate nutrition are so important.
Courtesy of SmartPak