No Hoof, No Horse: Fundamental Knowledge for Maintaining Hoof Health in your Horse

I would like to have a brief discussion on the importance of maintaining proper hoof health in horses. As horse owners, we all care deeply for the well-being of our horses. Taking proper care of our horses hooves is one of the most important things we can do as horse owners for our horses health.

How exactly can we provide optimal care for our horses hooves so they are happy and healthy?

1. Finding a High Quality Farrier

Not all farriers are created equal. Some are highly trained, and have formal education. They have been in the industry for years. They are knowledgeable in blacksmith techniques, horse anatomy, nutrition, trimming, and shoeing. These folks can be a wealth of knowledge, and provide helpful insights so your horse can feel and perform his/her best.

Other farriers may have learned to tack a shoe on and trim a hoof out of necessity. Sometimes these services can be hard to find, especially in very rural areas, and in emergency situations. While these are good skills to have when in a bind, and may “get you by”, you want to choose a farrier that will provide your horse THE BEST hoof care in the long term, and can provide consistent, and routine trims and shoeing throughout their lifetime. Your relationship with your farrier is typically a long-lasting one. I cannot express the importance of finding a farrier that is a true “master of the trade”.

Don’t be afraid to ask your farrier questions. Where did they learn the trade? How long have they been shoeing horses? Do they have any formal education? How skilled are they with blacksmith techniques? Do they have knowledge of specialty shoes or use of shoes and pads to be used in winter conditions?

Chances are, the reputable farriers in the industry won’t be hard to find, and are widely used and well known in your area. Talk to the local equine community for feedback.

2. Have a regular Trimming and Shoeing Schedule

In the summertime, horse hooves generally need to be trimmed and shod every 6-8 weeks. The horse’s hooves grow more slowly in the winter, and maintenance is generally needed every 6-12 weeks, depending on the horse. Good farriers will more often than not get booked out, especially in the warmer months. Get on your farrier’s calendar, and always book out your next appointment at each visit, so that your horse can be on a reliable, consistent schedule for hoof maintenance. This will minimize problems with your horses feet.

3. A Properly Balanced Hoof

When your horse has a balanced hoof, it moves better, and has less stress and strain on bones, tendons and ligaments. The ideal foot has:

  • A straight hoof-pastern angle
    • A straight line from the pastern down through the front of the hoof wall.
    • This correctly lines up the bones between the pastern and coffin bone.
  • Easy break over
    • The toe is not too long and is squared, rounded or rolled.
    • This allows easier movement with each step.
    • Too much break over can result in health problems.
  • Adequate heel support
    • The shoe extends back to the end of the hoof wall and supports the back of the entire leg.
    • The back edge of the shoe is under a line drawn down the center of the cannon bone.
  • Medial-lateral balance
    • The foot lands evenly from side to side

4. Proper Nutrition

Make sure you are feeding your horse high quality hay and feed. You get out what you put in. Don’t try and save money buying cheap feed for your horse. You may pay for it in the long run. Provide salt licks to your horse so they may get the essential trace minerals needed to maintain ideal health.

5. Proper Hydration

Make sure your horse always has access to adequate, clean drinking water.

I hope this is is helpful and educational to all of those with horses in their lives. Remember, our horses are depending on US to put their best interests in mind. Therefore, we need to put forth our best selves everyday, for them, and for everyone, to make the world a better place. Happy Trails!

4 Comments

  1. That was very informative! I ran a small trail riding outfit about 10 years ago in Fort Collins, and this summer I have been developing a 17 acre property in the mid-west to eventually turn over into a ranch for keeping horses in need of homes. I didn’t know much about keeping shapely hooves years ago when I had the outfit, I just relied on my farrier and ranch partner to care for the horse’s hooves. I had all kinds of problems and it may have been due to some of the issues you mentioned here. I would love to hear your thoughts about diseases and negative effects of unclean hooves as well, like navicular disease, laminitis, puncture wounds, thrush, bone cysts, fractures, etc, especially in relationship to mountain riding in Colorado, since we have such jagged and sharp rocks on the trails around the Rockies. I would love to visit your ranch in the SW sometime and meet your horses! I visit the South Fork and Rio Grande area frequently esp. in the fall, and want to move there eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you SO MUCH for your feedback! I absolutely love hearing from my readers. You are always welcome to come to my ranch, meet my horses, and ride with me whenever you come to SW Colorado. Just let me know when you are coming to town!
      Thank you for expressing to me what topics you would like to know more about. Hoof ailments and diseases are often not widely discussed, or not addressed until problems arise.
      This will be the next topic I address in my next blog post, for I feel that educating others before these problems arise can help horse owners be more preventative in protecting their horse from such ailments.
      Keep an eye out for my next post, and do let me know if you come to my neck of the woods! I would love to meet you. Until then, Happy Trails!!

      Liked by 1 person

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