Daily maintenance is the key to healthy hooves. Dirty hooves are vulnerable to stone bruises, brittleness and thrush. Hooves subjected to dampness (water, mud, urine, etc.) may become soft or tender and develop thrush. Dried-out hooves are susceptible to soreness, cracking and breakage.
Prevention is your best strategy. Here are some tips for keeping your horse sound:
PICK: Pick out your horse's hooves as much as possible. Clean the outside with the pick edge and brush.
CLEAN: Thrush is very difficult to eradicate. It is contagious, plus most treatments kill the outer layer of flesh and drive the spores deeper into the hoof. Thrush feeds off dead cells, so later it emerges even worse. Since thrush loves dampness and an anaerobic environment, clean stalls and hooves are pivotal.
PACK: Most show horses I know get their feet packed 2-4 times a week, except when footing is wet or feet soft. In that case, sole paint toughens them up. Packing involves rolling hoof packing into a fist-sized ball, mashing it over the bottom of the hoof and covering with brown paper. On a cupped hoof, this will stay on all night, but most hooves require duct or self-adhesive tape to hold the slippers on all night. Packing feet helps draw out foot soreness when horses are working a lot, footing is hard, dry or rough like Florida's sand. Hoof packing can be a tar or poultice base, sometimes mixed with Epsom salt. Just be sure that if you pack with poultice, the hooves don?t get too soft.
BREATHE: Never use hoof black or sparkles. They do not allow the hoof to breathe.
Healthy hooves are usually a matter of daily maintenance. Be mindful. And, may you always enjoy hardy hooves!
Ruthann Smith, world-class groom and braider, teaches Top Turnout Clinics and developed the progressive and cost-effective Lucky Braids coat care and braiding products. Find more grooming tips at: http://www.luckybraids.com/ ©Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.