With winter fast approaching its important to take good care of your horses’ feet while maintaining awareness of hoof changes in the winter. Hooves are prone to packing ice and snow balls making it difficult to walk. This also increases the chance of slips and falls that can lead to stress on joints, tendons, and ligaments.
Hooves in winter grow differently than during the summer. Generally, the hoof growth is slower during the winter however it is just as important to maintain a healthy trimming regimen every 6-12 weeks or sooner if needed during the winter months. Moisture is a larger problem in our part of the northwest. Did you know that moisture in the hoof causes the frog to shed? This is a normal part of winter changes that can occur in the horse’s feet.
Stone bruises are also common in the winter. These are caused by a horse walking or being ridden on uneven or hard ground. These bruises occur on the sole of the hoof and appear as a darker coloration. Some bruises can even lead to bigger problems such as abscesses or fractured coffin bones.
Thrush is another problem that horse owners may to deal with in the rainy months. Thrush is caused by moisture, bacteria and fungus that gets trapped in the hoof. This usually happens during the warmer winters since warm weather is a key breeding ground for bacteria.
Depending on the horse, some can go barefoot during the winter months and others need shoes. Generally, shoes are needed in the winter if the horses fall into 1 of 3 categories. The first one is wear and tear meaning their hooves wear down too quickly in the winter due to the excess moisture and soft feet that occur. Next is traction/protection. These horses are ones who are being used more frequently in the winter and need the extra traction and protection on their feet. The last category is therapeutic such as the horses that have issues with their hoof angles or have other problems such as navicular.
Ways to Prevent/Treat Winter Hoof Problems
Pick your horses feet daily.
Allow your horses feet to dry out daily such as bringing them into a dry area for the night. Some shaving and pellet types can allow for the horse’s feet to dry quickly.
Pellets absorb 7 times their weight in water so they are very good at helping dry horses feet out.
Don’t turn your horse out on hard uneven ground such as mud that has become solid overnight. This can lead to bruising of the soles.
Treat problems quickly, this can drastically reduce the healing time.
Use preventative methods such as hardening your horses’ feet during winter.
Durasole: Used for hardening the sole and frog
Keratex: Used for hardening the hoof and sole
Kopertox: Used for treating thrush
Oral supplements are also a great option such as Platinum Performances Foot & Hoof or Farriers formula. Look for high quality ingredients and high levels of biotin and methionine.