As the old adage says 'No foot, no horse'. This is as true now as it always has been. Winter hoof care is often overlooked. It's cold, it's dark, it's wet - you don't necessarily want to stand on the yard for any length of time! However, it pays to spend a few minutes a day looking after your horses feet. Below are our tips for winter hoof care to avoid problems down the line.
1) Pick out feet everyday. That poo in your horses feet may seem harmless, but microbes in the poo can produce enzymes that can weaken the structures of the foot when they become packed with bedding or dirt.
2) Keep your stable clean and dry. Wet bedding can create the perfect breeding ground and accelerate conditions like thrush. If you horse is particularly wet try putting extra absorbent wood pellets under their usual bedding.
3) Keep farrier visits regular throughout the winter. Horn growth may seem slower but there really is no substitute for a decent farrier. They are the hoof expert - after all they spent years training and practicing in this area! Your farrier will keep you informed of any problems that are occurring and advise on how to treat potential issues.
4) Use snow pads if turning out in the snow. Snow can ball up in horses feet and create a big problem if they are left out like this for any length of time. You don't want bruised soles, abscess or tendon issues so invest in some snow pads if your horse is shod and lives out or needs turnout in snowy conditions.
5) Check for thrush. It sounds gross but you can usually smell when something is up. Thrush loves the wet conditions winter brings. You can help prevent it by using hoof-care products that contain essential oils like tea tree and lavender. Essential oils are great for preventative care - they can be used to treat low grade issues as they have all have some antibacterial properties. They are less harmful to the natural foot biometric than harsher treatments like iodine.
6) Check for abscess. Hoof abscess can occur when bacteria gets trapped inside the hoof. It can cause massive pain to the horse and lameness. Close inspection for early signs is always worth the extra few minutes as the earlier they are caught the better. Call your vet or farrier for advice if you suspect something is wrong.
7) Take care when riding on hard ground. We have all winced watching our horse gallop off on frosty ground - minimise risk of lameness by using the school (if not frozen) and taking extra care when hacking out on frosty ground.
8) Use LEG UP to keep hooves moisturised and nourished. It contains Shea known for its hydrating benefits, yet it doesn't seal out moisture allowing the hoof to breathe. Lavender will bring those anti-microbial bonus points whilst the hemp moisturises without clogging.
Healthy hooves - happy horse!