We’re kicking off International Hoof Care Week, which runs from January 21st through the 24th, with insightful tips and proactive planning for you and your horse. Read on to learn more and ensure your horse has happy feet all year round.
The foundation of a horse’s health is a strong, healthy hoof. While the hoof’s outer wall is a hardy, nearly impenetrable layer, just underneath there are soft tissues that are constantly growing and repairing. Strengthening and protecting these layers will help reduce the chances of developing a weak hoof, which can make your horse susceptible to all kinds of issues, including toe injuries, pain, infections, and a range of more serious conditions including:
Navicular Syndrome - Inflammation or degeneration of the navicular bone or injury to the surrounding soft tissue structures.
Laminitis - Also known as founder, this is an extremely painful inflammation of the lamina, the structure that holds the coffin bone within the hoof horn.
Thrush - A terrible smelling, blackish bacteria and fungus appearing around the frog area.
White Line Disease - Also known as “seedy toe”, this is a separation of the inner hoof wall beginning at the sole.
Soft Tissue Injuries and Abscesses -Swollen pockets of infection most often caused by bacteria and fungi trapped inside the hoof.
Hoof Cracks -Severity ranges depending on location and depth
There are many ways a horse can wind up with weak hooves, including bad genes, inherited health issues, a nutritional imbalance and unhygienic living conditions. Practicing prevention and making it part of your horse’s daily routine can make a world of difference and help you avoid painful outcomes.
Proper Nutrition: A well-balanced, nutritious diet of high-quality grain and forage is the best defense, and plenty of water.
Add in appropriate supplements: There are several hoof supplements on the market that contain ingredients such as biotin, methionine, and zinc, which can help improve the condition of your horse's hooves. It’s important to consult with your veterinarian or a hoof care specialist before adding supplements to your horse’s diet. They can help you determine the best course of action based on your horse's specific needs.
Keep your horse's hooves clean and dry: Clean your horse’s hooves daily to remove dirt, rocks and other debris; and try to keep them as dry as possible. Damp conditions can increase the risk of Thrush, abscesses and more.
Use Hoof Oil: Hoof Oil moisturizes and conditions the hoof and fortifies the outer layers of keratin.
Proper trimming and shoeing: Conducted on a regular schedule to prevent imbalances which can lead to many hoof issues including abscesses.
Keep your horse moving: Exercise is important for maintaining healthy hooves, as it helps stimulate blood flow and improve circulation.
Clean and sanitary living conditions, always!
Thrush prevails in warm, wet, and muddy conditions - just the kind of conditions we know all too well in the Southeast. If you notice a foul odor coming from your horse's hoof, most likely your horse is dealing with thrush. Thrush is very common. It is caused by the presence of bacteria and fungus in the crevices of the horse’s hoof and easy for seasoned horse owner to spot. Signs of thrush include a foul, rotten odor; a black discharge where the frog meets the sole; sensitivity and pain in the frog when pressure is applied and even lameness in serious cases.
Pick your horse’s hooves regularly, but take care not to damage the sulcus or frog so as not to create a point for bacterial entry. Exercise is very important. Adequate turnout time can suffice here, but make sure your horse moves in order to keep circulation going in the hoof. Adequate blood supply is key to healthy hooves. Hire an experienced farrier for trims –regular hoof care is the key to balanced, supportive hooves. If at all possible, keep your horses on clean, dry ground. Wet, dirty bedding and manure mixed with mud make for the perfect stage for thrush.
Clean the hoof: Start by thoroughly cleaning the affected area with a mild disinfectant and a hoof pick. Be sure to remove any debris or excess moisture from the crevices of the hoof.
Apply an antimicrobial solution: Use a specialized thrush treatment or a diluted solution of household bleach or Apple Cider Vinegar to kill the bacteria and fungus causing the infection. Be sure to follow the product's instructions for use. Kevin Bacons Hoof Solution is a great product for the treatment of thrush, as well as ChlorineDioxide products such as Clean Traxs and White Lightning.
Pack the crevices: After applying the antimicrobial solution, you can also pack the crevices of the hoof. This will help draw out any remaining infection and promote healing. We like Hoof Healing Clay or a mixture of equal parts Epsom salt and baking soda.
Keep the hoof clean and dry: To prevent the thrush from returning, it's important to keep the hoof clean and dry. Avoid letting the horse stand in dirty or wet conditions and be sure to clean the hoof daily.
If the thrush does not improve or if the horse is experiencing a lot of discomfort, it's a good idea to consult with a veterinarian. They can help determine the best course of treatment and provide additional care as needed.
An abscess in a horse's foot can be a painful and serious condition that requires prompt treatment. Here are some steps you can take to treat an abscess in a horse's foot:
Clean the area: Start by cleaning the abscess and the surrounding area with a mild disinfectant. This will help prevent further infection.
Soak the foot: Soak the horse's foot in a warm Epsom salt solution or a poultice to help soften the abscess and bring it to a head. This can be done for 15-30minutes several times a day.
Clean the wound: After the abscess has drained, clean the wound with a mild disinfectant and apply a dressing to protect the area.
Administer pain medication: If the horse is in a lot of pain, your veterinarian may prescribe pain medication to help alleviate their discomfort.
Follow-up care: It's important to continue soaking and cleaning the foot until the abscess has completely healed. Your veterinarian may also recommend additional treatment or follow-up care.
It's important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible if you suspect that your horse has an abscess.Abscesses can be very painful and can lead to serious complications if left untreated. It is also possible that your vet or farrier may need to open the abscess to drain.
If an abscess is suspected due to a puncture wound, Don’t Panic. When encountering a puncture wound, it's important to remind yourself not to panic. It's common for your first instinct to be to remove the object. However, make your first move a phone call to your vet. Your veterinarian can instruct you on exactly how to handle the situation.In most cases, it's best for the veterinarian to remove the object or debris.Radiographs taken on site with the foreign object in place are helpful in determining the angle of entry, the depth of penetration and if the object affected critical synovial structures.
If you have already removed the object make sure to save it and note the exact location of removal. Snapping a quick photo for the veterinarian can also be helpful. For wounds that penetrate deeper structures, immediate and aggressive treatment is necessary. The horse will need to be placed on antibiotics and trailered to a clinic for advanced surgical and medical techniques.
Consider these common, all natural remedies to promote Hoof Health. Of course, you should always check with your vet before trying any treatment.
Apple Cider Vinegar - Great for treating fungal infections such as Thrush because of its antifungal properties. It's a good idea to dilute the vinegar before using it, as undiluted vinegar can be harsh on the hooves. We recommend ¼ cup of vinegar to one gallon of warm water.Another tip is to use a spray bottle to spray all over the hoof.
Epsom Salts - Also known as magnesium sulfate, Epsom Salts can be used to draw out an infection in a horse’s foot.Dissolve 2 cups of Epsom Salt to one gallon of warm water. Soak the infected hoof twice daily for roughly 20 minutes. Continue until the abscess begins to drain.
Omega-3 fatty acids - These healthy fats can help improve the overall condition of a horse's hooves by increasing their strength and flexibility. Omega-3s can also help reduce inflammation and promote healthy skin and coat growth.
Vitamin A - This vitamin is essential for the proper development and maintenance of healthy hooves. It can help improve the quality of the hoof wall and sole, and promote strong, flexible hooves.
Vitamin D - This vitamin is necessary for the absorption of calcium, which is essential for strong bones and hooves.Vitamin D can help improve the overall health and condition of a horse's hooves.
It’s the perfect time to create healthier habits or tweak your existing program. Either way, we’re here for you. Let us know if you’d like more information or you can always talk to one of our vets about specific hoof issues.