Most farmers and ranchers would consider themselves animal lovers. After all, the horses you own to help you complete your chores around the ranch are as important to you as any other member of the family. It's only fitting then that your horse receives proper love and attention, and that starts with their hooves. Your horse can't talk to tell you what's wrong, so proactive healthcare is the best way to keep their hooves healthy. So, where do you start?
Pick Out Their Hooves
The simplest thing you can do for your horse is also the most important. The basic act of picking your horses hooves out can stop a myriad of problems in their tracks before they become major issues for your horse. Picking out the hooves should occur both before you go for a ride, and after. Using your pic, scrape out any foreign objects from each of their hooves and brush down the hooves to ensure you can see the entire surface of their sole. Why does it matter before you ride? Your horse may have gotten something lodged in its hoof in the stable, and you don't want to add your weight to the situation during a ride.
After a ride, it's always a good idea to go through again and pick out their hooves, brushing them down when you're done. This simple act can stop a number of issues from bothering your horse later on.
Look for Thrush, Cracks, and Abscesses
While you're down there checking out your horse’s hooves, take a moment to examine each individual hoof for signs of thrush, cracks, or abscesses. Thrush is a bacterial condition that arises from a poor environment, most commonly, when your horse spends prolonged periods standing in manure or mud. Thrush is identifiable by its foul smell and dark ooze. Cracks are important to catch early because small cracks can become serious problems in the future that threaten the sensitive structure of the hoof.
If you notice that your horses hoof feels warmer to the touch than usual, or its pulse feels stronger, this could be a sign of an abscess on the inside of the hoof. This can be the result of anything from bad shoeing to an overlooked sole puncture. If you notice an abscess, it's best to contact your veterinarian immediately.
If you want to avoid thrush, in particular, and damage to the hoof in general from debris, it is important to provide your horse with a clean and proper environment. As mentioned above, too much manure and mud in their enclosure can lead to thrush. Missing small rocks or other debris that lodges in the hoof can also lead to infections, punctures, or other injuries in the future. Keep their environment clean to help avoid these issues.
You're not the same person when you don't eat right, and your body doesn't maintain energy levels and grow in a healthy manner when fed a poor diet. Your horses' hooves rely on a healthy diet to grow properly too. A diet high in vitamins and minerals, such as biotin and zinc, help maintain and encourage growth of proteins and keratin. Both of those factors are critical to the composition of horse hooves.
The more active your horse is, the better. Exercise encourages growth, strength, and overall health in the hooves of your horses, so don't ignore exercise as a part of maintaining its hooves.
When horses were out in the wild there hooves basically took care of themselves. Now that we domesticated horses it is our job to maintain their feet for them. We should be making sure that our horses get regular hoof care to keep them comfortable and healthy.