Lameness that impairs the usefulness of a horse is usually caused by inadequate prevention through proper hoof care and reasonable management.
 Steven M. Jones, Associate Professor of Beef Cattle and Equine at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service said, “Healthy hooves are literally the foundation for everything you want to enjoy with your horse.  The hoof must be pliable and healthy so that the horse is useful and sound for best performance. Caring for your horse’s feet and hooves will safeguard their long-term soundness.”
1.    Foot care needs to be as much of a routine as feeding and watering horses. This should include (at minimum) routine cleaning of the feet, periodic trimming, corrections of any minor imperfections, and treatment of foot injuries and diseases. Jones said that maintaining the balance of a horse’s nutrition can help alleviate hoof problems. This includes feeding with high quality hay, supplementing with grain if needed and providing the necessary vitamins and minerals for the horse.
 2.    Though many of our horses are not in use in the wintertime, that doesn’t mean that we can neglect their foot care. The maintenance of horse’s feet does vary from season to season, however. In the summer, they should be trimmed or shod every six to eight weeks. Jones added, “The hoof grows from the hoof head down at a rate of 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch each month depending on the nutrition, temperature, moisture and general health. Hooves generally grow more slowly during the winter. Because of the slower growth, trimming interval may be expanded to six to twelve weeks.”
3.    Every horse is different and the trimming and shoeing intervals should be tailored to each individual horses’ needs. Balance in the hoof allows the horse to move better. This balance also lessens the strain on bones, tendons, and ligaments.
If the weather is consistently dry, or is frequently changing from wet to dry, the horses are likely to have dry, brittle feet. This can quickly lead to hoof cracks. However, Jones suggested that routine hoof care doesn’t necessarily have to require the use of hoof moisturizers or dressings. Some horses just have more dry hooves than others. Be cautious that the reasons for the cracks aren’t more serious. For example, “Long trimming intervals can allow long toes and the hoof develops hoof cracks due to a lack of support by the hoof wall. Apply hoof moisturizers to the hoof wall during periods of dry weather if the hoof becomes brittle and/or develops cracks. Hoof dressings, if needed, should be applied to the hoof head and top half of the hoof wall,” explained Jones.
Most importantly, though, in keeping the feet from cracking, is to trim the horses on a regular basis.
4.    Be aware of diseases, such as thrush, that can be a threat during prolonged wet periods. Clean and inspect the hooves daily and keep the horses bedding clean while providing a dry place for the horse to stand. These practices can prevent thrush. Sometimes regular trimming and treatment with lime, copper sulfate, or hydrogen peroxide are helpful if thrush persists.


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