Caring For Your Horse’s Hooves In The Summer Months

Photo from unsplash.com

Caring For Your Horse’s Hooves In The Summer Months

Throughout the summer months, your horse’s hooves can be subjected to  different kinds of stress. Prolonged periods of dry weather can result in very hard ground as well as contributing to your horses hooves becoming more brittle. Correct nutrition can help to make hooves more resilient and more able to cope with these conditions, but other factors, such as good farriery, can make a difference, too!

Understanding The Structure Of The Hoof

It is quite incredible that all the horse’s weight is supported through four relatively small hooves. Shock absorption is a key function of the hooves and several anatomical structures help with this.

The structure of the hoof:

  • Coronary Band – This is the top of the hoof and is where the horn originates and grows down from
  • Periople – The outer hoof layer that protects the wall. It regulates moisture content within the horn.
  • Hoof Wall –  contains keratin which provides a hard, protective layer to shield the internal parts of the foot.
  • Sole is sensitive  and is non-weight bearing.  Horses with flat feet are more prone to bruised soles.
  • Frog – This is the triangular structure extending from the heel to around halfway down the foot. It absorbs concussion, provides grip through the weight-bearing surface and helps promote circulation.
  • Digital Cushion – This is situated between the pedal bone and deep flexor tendon, which absorbs concussion upon impact with the ground.
  • Lateral Cartilage – This protects the coffin joint.
  • Laminae – These are supportive structures, offering protection and support for the pedal bone. It is these structures that become inflamed and may indeed fail in cases of laminitis allowing the pedal bone to rotate through the sole.

Choose Feed With The Right Nutrients

To give your horse’s hooves the best chance in summer, it’s important to select the right  feed. You’ll particularly need to ensure your horse is getting enough biotin, calcium and zinc in their diet in order to  promote healthy hooves.

Calcium is an important nutrient for hoof health and is abundant in alfalfa. Feeds which are Molasses Free and contain added vitamins and minerals to complement the naturally occurring nutrients in alfalfa and promote healthy hooves. Studies suggest that biotin, can promote hoof growth rates which means cracks and faults grow out quicker resulting in healthier hooves.

The importance of regular visits from your farrier

A recent study showed a correlation between the frequency of farrier visits and the incidence of laminitis in horses. If visits were more than 8 weeks apart it increased the risk of laminitis. It is important to consider that this isn’t necessarily a causal relationship and may just mean that people that don’t get their horses feet trimmed regularly are doing other things that also increase the risk of laminitis. However, this finding is a strong indication that regular visits from a farrier are important!