Want to know how to keep your horse's feet happier? Carla Lake spoke with a helpful farrier to find out.
[top image: Wikimedia Commons]
Today I spent several hours chatting with a farrier (who wanted to remain anonymous) while he applied putty to my horse's terrible, terrible feet. He shared his top tips for hoof care with me, but the bottom line? If you invest in your horse's hoof care, you'll see the difference in a sound, healthy horse.
His top five tips:
1. Heat and moisture are the biggest enemies of the feet.
You can't control the temperature outside, but to minimize moisture, try to modify your horses' turnout so they're not standing in mud. Some strategies to improve pasture drainage include drain tiles, cutting a swale, or adding sand or lime (for clay soil). Whether you can actually use any of these strategies will often depend on land usage laws in your area, but it can make a big difference for cracked, weak hooves. Another way to help keep your horse's hooves dry is to apply hoof hardener or sealer twice a week.
2. Hoof hygiene isn't something you can just do occasionally.
If your horse has problems like thrush, you need to treat it every day. Not just when you have a weekly lesson, not just a week before a trim. Every day. Think of any recommended hoof maintenance as a hygiene issue, like brushing your teeth.
3. “Economizing” on hoof health will lead to bigger costs down the road.
If you try to bargain-hunt for the cheapest farrier around, more often than not you'll get what you pay for. Pick your farrier based on his or her experience, certifications and recommendations from your vet or others you trust. As the saying goes, “no hoof, no horse,” so do you really want to leave it up to an inexperienced or sub-par farrier?
4. X-rays are worth it.
Your farrier can't see through your horse's foot, so if there's something out of the ordinary going on, it's money well spent to find out. Of course, your farrier needs to know how to read X-rays, which goes back to not cheaping out on a less experienced farrier.
5. Personalize your horse's hoof care.
Some horses can go eight weeks between trims and their feet still look almost perfect in the eighth week. Other horses can only go four weeks between trims. So don't get upset if your farrier tells you your horse needs more frequent trims–it's more money, yes, but it will keep your horse's feet healthier.