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  • August 11, 2022 3 min read

    Horses' hooves are much like our fingernails and hair; they continuously grow. But during the winter months, you may have noticed that your horse’s hooves grow slower but are more prone to cracking, splitting and developing conditions such as abscesses and thrush. To keep hooves strong and healthy, we need to be aware of how varying weather patterns affect our horse's hooves, as well as help protect them if and when required.

    A horse’s hoof wall is made of keratin, making it hard. The hoof wall holds very little moisture, around 25%, whereas the sole and frog of the hoof will typically contain more moisture. The moisture content of the hoof is quite important because this is the moisture content at which it operates at its optimum. If we think of a hoof like a sponge, in wet and muddy conditions, the hoof will absorb more water, making it softer, weaker, and more prone to cracking, splitting and developing infections. 

    There are several actions we can take to ensure that our horse's hooves remain strong, regardless of whether they are shod or not, which are outlined below.

    1. Improve Hoof Quality

    Ensuring that your horse's hooves are in tip-top condition all year round is the best way to ensure that they remain healthy, particularly during the winter months. Horse hooves need to be trimmed and rebalanced every 4 to 6 weeks, which prevents splitting and cracking and will ensure the correct angles of the hoof and pastern structures. A horse's diet also plays a part in ensuring the hooves remain healthy. It is essential to check that the horse's diet is balanced and any imbalances are corrected, which will help to maintain the strength of the horse's hooves. 

  • Hoof Care
  • All year round, your horse's hooves should be well cared for. The hooves should be cleaned regularly and checked for rocks, peddles or wood chips. If hooves are routinely cleaned, you will notice any slight changes sooner (e.g. infections), which will be able to be treated quicker, resulting in a sound horse. If your horse's hooves are caked with mud, this will also exacerbate the moisture content of the hooves. So cleaning the dirt out will help keep the hooves drier. If your horse is shod, it is essential to check for loose nails, crooked shoes, or loose shoes, which can all cause potential problems for the horse, such as foot abscesses. 

  • Ground Footing
  • In winter months, it isn’t uncommon for horses to be stabled in a dry environment and then let out into a paddock, which will typically be wet, and in some cases, muddy. The back and forth between a dry and wet environment can cause the hooves to lose strength and cause throw shoes due to the loosening of nails. So, in the winter months, it is essential to try and keep the hooves drier and prevent them from taking on more moisture. Some measures can be implemented to alleviate muddy and wet conditions in paddocks and help keep those tootsies drier, which include:

    • Placing hay rolls in different areas of the paddocks to stop horses from digging up the ground 
    • Placing a raised bed of crushed gravel around water troughs 
    • Using mud control matting in paddocks in high traffic areas, such as around gates, will help stabilise the ground and prevent mud
    • Having a place in the paddock which is higher and drier allows the horses to rest in a drier spot, out of the mud
    • Fence off any muddy and wet areas in the paddock
    • Ensure stables are dry and bedding is clean
  • Hoof Dressings and Supplements
  • There are some hoof dressings and supplements available that may be able to help your horse’s hooves. Hoof dressings designed to maintain the moisture content of the hooves may be beneficial for horses with weaker hooves. Many supplements are available, specifically made to help strengthen a horse's hooves. As always, before feeding any supplement, it is crucial to check your horse's diet and ensure that it is balanced and that you are not overfeeding any particular vitamin or mineral. If in doubt, it is best to consult with a horse nutritionist or your veterinarian. 

    Some of the hoof dressings we have available at Oakford Stockfeeds include; Potties Hoof dressing, Kelato Hoofprime, NRG Stride, Worlds Best Hoof Oil, Hawthorne Sole Pack and CDM Cornucrescine Daily Hoof Dressing. 

    We also have supplements available; Bio Hoof, Ranvet Hoof Food, Vitamite Dr Biffs Hoof Supplement, Hygain Gleam, Farriers Formula, KER Bio-Bloom and Kohnkes Own Reboot Hoof. If you have any questions about our products, as always, please visit us in-store or online; we would be happy to help!

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