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Horse care can be quite complex. The
purchase of a horse alone can be costly enough, but horses have
certain requirements that need to be met that generally far
outweigh the cost of the horse itself. One important facet of horse
care, in addition to proper nutrition and regular veterinary care,
is the maintenance of the hooves, a science that is usually
performed by a specialist in farriery.
According to Jason Wilson-Maki, farrier
at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine &
Biomedical Sciences, horses need their feet trimmed every four to
"Many factors need to be considered
regarding your horse's foot care schedule," states Wilson-Maki.
"Weanlings (baby horses that have recently been removed from their
mothers) grow roughly half an inch of hoof in a month, while
geriatric (senior) horses may grow only one-fourth of an inch.
Mature horses generally grow three-eighths of an
Other factors that affect growth include
time of the year and physical activity. Horses in high level
training may need to be shod every four to five weeks, while older
pasture pets may need to be trimmed less often, such as every eight
weeks. The actual schedule for your horse's feet should be dictated
by its needs.
"Ideally, the foot should not be allowed
to grow longer than three-eighths to half an inch away from its
trimmed length," explains Wilson-Maki.
A farrier can tell you if your horse
requires shoes. They are generally necessary if wear exceeds growth
or if a horse needs foot protection to perform its job. Some horses
have tender feet and may need shoes if they appear foot sore in
their natural environment.
Some other good hoof care practices
besides regular feet trimming are providing clean stabling
conditions and regular turnout. Horses should not be kept in
excessively wet conditions, as the feet can become overly hydrated,
which can lead to abscesses or infections like thrush and white
line disease. Very dry and hard feet, however, can chip and crack,
so some moisture is needed. Picking your horse's feet several times
a week and inspecting them often may keep small issues from
becoming bigger problems.
"General good husbandry practices go a
long way towards maintaining healthy feet," adds Wilson-Maki. "But
in very dry conditions, it may be helpful to overflow the water
trough a few times a week in order to keep feet
Besides removing excess growth, what else
can a farrier do with a horse's feet?
"In addition to restoring order to
overgrown structures, a farrier can also use some form of appliance
to support a hoof, protect a hoof, alter the stresses upon a hoof,
or provide traction," says Wilson-Maki. "Farriery is only a
component of the correction of hoof problems; a definitive
examination and diagnosis by a veterinarian can greatly enhance the
chances of a positive outcome."
Should your horse come up lame, you can
utilize the skills of two specialists for the creation of a well
thought-out long term plan. Whereas the farrier trims and protects
the horse's feet with appliances, diagnosing and treating lameness
is the area of expertise for the veterinarian. Often times, a
veterinarian and farrier team is the best avenue for resolving
lameness issues in a horse.
Finally, there are a lot of supplements
available that promise to give your horse better, stronger feet. As
with many human supplements, it is a good idea to check and make
sure they actually perform like they are claimed
"Most supplements appear to be
'multivitamins' for the horse's feet," asserts Wilson-Maki. "They
should use what they need and fertilize with the excess. If you
have questions about supplements, it would be a good idea to
consult with your veterinarian."
The care of your horse's hooves is
essential to caring for it as a whole. A lame horse may not be able
to be ridden and may also have trouble doing something as simple as
walking around its pasture. By keeping a regular schedule with your
farrier and monitoring your horse as often as possible, you are
ensuring that it will live the best quality of life possible for
the both of you!
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