Summer Hoof Care For Horses

damaged hooves

Summer Hoof Care For Horses

Optimise summer hoof care for horse with these top tips.

No hoof, no horse is a phrase often slung around by equestrians and non-equestrians alike, and it is very true! Between summer and winter, horse owners try to tackle different problems as the climate and ground conditions change. But what problems are we most likely to see in the summer and how can we optimise our summer hoof care for horses?

The Importance Of Good Hoof Condition?

For horses, it really is a case of ‘no hoof, no horse’. The hooves are a vital supporting structure. The small surface area of the hoof, in addition to the  massive weight they support means even the smallest of problems can have detrimental effects.

If the hoof becomes compromised, this can cause changes to the loading of the structure and uneven wear and tear. Changing outer angles of the hoof can impact internal structures, such as bone positions and joint angles, all the way up the limb. These small changes can cause increased strain and loading on structures,  applying more force than they are capable of withholding. Therefore, maintaining condition in-between farrier visits is crucial to ensure our horses stay sound and to reduce any un-necessary demand on delicate structures.

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Summer Hoof Care For Horses
Summer Hoof Care For Horses

During summer and longer periods of grazing, it is also important to consider the health of internal tissue, which conditions such as laminitis compromise. Horses suffering with laminitis lose integrity of a soft tissue in the hoof, called the laminae, which supports the bones contained in the hoof. Therefore, as the laminae loses integrity, bone angles change which can result in abnormal weight bearing and increase strain on supporting structures within the leg.

 

Secondary problems can also originate from hoof problems and abnormal loading. For example, back muscle can lose tone, strength and develop symptomatic pain. Spinal movement is very closely linked to locomotion of the horse, with research demonstrating that with speed, flexion movements of the spine increases. However, horses suffering lameness show more spinal rigidity as a consequence of them not fulfilling their full locomotory capacity. Compensating their stride can therefore lead to loss of back muscle tone and strength, whilst stride asymmetries can result in muscle asymmetries. Lack of symmetry will effect how tack fits and your horse’s ability to perform equally on both reins.

Common Hoof Problems In Summer

Summer brings with it a whole host of hoof problems for horses. As the weather becomes hotter and drier, owners are keen to reap the benefits from hacking and turnout.However, not only are the conditions drier, but our horse’s overall hydration status may be compromised as they sweat more to keep cool in the hot summer sun, taking away from vital moisture that is necessary for optimal hoof health.

Although it may not seem like it, the hoof contains a lot of moisture, especially areas such as the frog, bulb and white line. If moisture is taken way from these structures, it can result in loss of hoof elasticity. As a rigid structure, it is hard to believe that the hoof has any elastic potential. However, on contact with the ground, the hoof actually spreads to absorb force and reduce the impact on structures further up the leg. The loss of water, and therefore elasticity, in the hoof structure means it loses its potential shock absorbing capacity. Losing the capacity to absorb shock can predispose to damage of the tendon, ligament and bone, resulting in lameness. Additionally, the loss of shock absorption makes the hoof prone to cracks and chips, which can cause pain and open areas to infection.

However, in the British Summer it is not uncommon for the climate to be wet! Experiencing consistently wet environments can also be detrimental on hoof condition, especially when paired with the warmer temperatures of summer. The warm, moisture-rich environment can make for the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi on the hoof, as well as making the structure weaker. Hooves suffering from the high moisture levels will be prone to cracks and flaking of the wall.

Not only are summer conditions a danger to external hoof condition, but they also pose a threat to the health of internal hoof structures too. Summer grass is often nutrient rich, with longer daylight hours supplying plants with the energy they need to grow. Therefore, owners should keep their eye out for signs of laminitis. Notable signs of laminitis include; presence of heat on the hoof wall, a strong digital pulse at the pastern, horses rocking back to stand on their heels, and lameness. With prevention being better than cure, make sure you are clued-up on all the steps you can take to prevent laminitis.

How Owners Can Optimise Hoof Condition…

Identifying deficiencies and supplementing is one method of tackling poor hoof condition. It is uncommon for horse to suffer deficiencies, especially if they are field-kept. However, certain diet restrictions of field-kept horses or poor-quality grazing may result in a deficiency. Before supplementing, always seek veterinary advice as providing vitamins and minerals in surplus can have a negative effect on the body.

Providing an external barrier to maintain condition, application of oils, conditions and balms can be a great part of routine.  As long as there is no underlying issue effecting your horse’s hoof condition, application of topical ointments is a great way to optimise hoof health.

Regular farrier visits are the most important part of hoof care though. Farriers can help you to identify any issues your horse may be having and offer bespoke advice catered to your horse. Industry suggests a farrier visits every six to eight weeks. However, there is an increasing shift toward more regular visits from farriers, with research suggesting 4 weeks is an optimum period between farrier visits to reduce the occurrence of asymmetries occurring and predispositions to lameness.

 

 

Summer Hoof Care In Horses
Summer Hoof Care In Horses

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