Whatever your hoof care worries, there’s lots you can do to help keep them in tip-top condition. Here are some of the best ways to keep problems at bay, helping your horse stay sound and keeping your riding plans on track.
Avoid wet conditions
Your horse’s hooves may look strong, but because they’re porous they can easily become saturated with water, which causes them to weaken. If he’s shod, the nail holes make it even easier for the water to get in. Hooves are further compromised when they go from wet to dry conditions, then back again. Wet hooves expand and when they dry they contract – this wet/dry cycle and the recurrent expansion and contraction weakens the hoof structure, which leads them to soften and crack.
To avoid your horse falling victim, fence off poached areas of the field, such as gateways, so he’s not constantly standing in the wet. While it can be tempting to hose off mud when you bring him in, you’ll just add more fuel to the fire because you’re wetting his feet even more. Instead, scrape off the worst of the mud with the flat side of a hoofpick then, if necessary, brush the mud off later when it’s dried.
There are hoof barrier products available that can help protect your horse’s hooves in wet conditions – ask your farrier whether your horse would benefit from one and, if so, which they’d recommend.
Give him a healthy diet
A balanced diet containing a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals will support healthy hoof growth, and you can also help maintain strong hooves by giving your horse a supplement containing biotin. Biotin is a B vitamin that has been proven to benefit hooves when fed at the right level. When shopping for a supplement, look for one that will provide your horse with 15–20mg of biotin per day – you should be able to find out this information by checking the product’s packaging or contacting the manufacturer.
Remember that hoof supplements won’t have an instant effect. Hoof horn grows slowly and it can take nine months for newly formed hoof to grow down from the coronary band to the ground.
For more of our healthy hoof tips, get your copy of March Horse&Rider, out now!