Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Horse Hoof Health Questions

Emma Cay asked "You make a very good point. I really like that you help us understand what is going on inside the horse's head. I wonder can you recommend any hoof supplements? I don't like shoeing if I don't have to."

Hey Emma, you have to have some realistic expectations with any supplements. While I believe hoof supplements are among the type of supplements that actually work, they won't replace good trimming, fix bad feet or replace shoes when needed.

There are many horses due to their good genetics and/or easy type of terrain they are ridden in who will never need shoes. And I think most people will say that most horses are better off without shoes, after all that's the way they come without our interference, but of course there are some horses who can be helped with shoes or may need corrective shoeing. I have some horses of each type.

I use Horseshoer's Secret which is a pelleted for of hoof supplement and have used Farrier's Formula over the years as well. I can't tell the difference between these products in the two horses I have put on it, but I now opt to use Horseshoers Secret now. I didn't tell my horseshoer about putting my horses on this supplement. I wanted to see if he could tell a difference. So every six to eight weeks I would ask him how those horses' feet were looking. Most often he would say something like "well, he still has a flare on that back right, but he's growing good sole and growing it pretty quick, too."

By the way, holding your horse for your shoer is a good time to increase your education on horses in general and feet in particular.  I'm lucky to have a great farrier and rarely miss a chance to be on hand to talk to him while he trims and shoes my horses.  

Usually supplements have a loading period where you are giving the horse an increased dose for X amount of days or weeks, then a maintenance level. At maintenance level, you'll be paying around $25 a month to feed your horse a hoof supplement.

You have to remember that it takes 8 to 10 months or so for a foot to completely grow out, so you'll have to have your horse on the hoof supplement for a long time to see any results. If you are looking for really tough feet, since you do not shoe your horse, then I don't think a hoof supplement will give you that. I'm using hoof supplements to give my horses the best chance of having healthy feet not tough feet.  You may want to look into hoof boots. Having some hoof boots around in case of a sore foot or to treat an injury is a good idea.

Siddo4 sent an e-mail asking "Do you clean your horse's hooves every day or before and after you ride? One of my friends say not to clean the hooves before you ride as the dirt packed underneath will help protect the hoof."

I usually look at and pick my horse's feet before riding just to make sure the shoe isn't loose or the horse hasn't picked up a rock or thorn. Sometimes if the hoof is packed with sand and manure I'll leave it as a natural pad, depending on where I'm riding or what I'm doing with that horse.  But imagine a rock packed into the manure that you can't see - the constant impact may turn that into a stone bruise.   

I always check and pick his feet after a ride. Sometimes during a ride I'll dismount and check his feet if I think I need to or if I'm riding with someone, a glance at the other horse's feet as they leave the ground will let you see if he picked up a rock.

Different country and climates affect the horse's feet differently.  While I may get away with not checking and picking feet for a few days since I live in the desert, someone in a very wet area may need to clean the feet more often to keep thrush down.  

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