Excessive Water Damage -- 8 Ways Heavy Rains May Affect Your Horse's Hooves
Long after the rain rot has cleared up from a horse's rump, the hooves are still struggling with the effects of extreme exposure to water.
Water affects the external quality of the hoof, and its interior strength is challenged as well. And since the horse?s hoof wall grows slowly, the changes may show up months after the floodwaters recede.
A spurt in hoof growth is not always cause for celebration, if the new growth is weak.
How wet was it? Extremely wet weather can adversely affect hooves in a variety of ways. Even if you live in a region that is not normally affected by weather extremes, chances are you may encounter it in the years to come, so be prepared.
If you are interested in holistic horse health, you know that changes in the hoof quality must also indicate changes in the balance of other systems in your horse?s health. If you notice your horse having more problems than usual this winter, don?t fault your horse. Hoof problems should be treated with immediacy and monitored carefully through the winter.
1. Carbohydrate Overload from the rich grasses. Water permeated so deeply into the soil that, in many places, the grass stayed green all summer, and did not seem to go into its mid-summer dormancy. Veterinarians reported a spike in grass and obesity-related laminitis cases not just in the spring but throughout the summer as horses ate and ate and ate.
2. Illness Outbreaks from an abundance of mosquitoes. Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus flare-ups spawned a rush for more vaccinations and use of pesticides. While these may not affect the feet directly, holistic advocates always fear that changes in immune system activity are stressful to a horse?s constitution, which will be reflected in the health of the feet.
3. Horses were turned out in wet paddocks; their hooves absorbed the water. The periople, the horny layer of the hooves, swelled more each day; on some horses, it looked like a jellyfish was sitting on the upper hoof wall. The hoof wall reached the point of maximum saturation and stayed there.
4. Horses prone to thrush experienced flare ups. A resistant form of thrush that was difficult to treat developed. There was an increase in cases of "sheared frog" thrush; this advanced form causes a split between the heel bulbs.
5. External fungal problems affecting the foot were identified by Cornell University. White line disease is a common infection of the inner hoof wall but the summer of 2006 saw a rash of fungus that was thriving on the outside of the hoof wall. In some cases, damage from the infection changed the contour of the hoof wall.
6. Fungal infections of the sole of the foot were also identified by Cornell. The sole became discolored and patchy and also thinner and thinner as the infection devoured new sole as fast as the horses could grow it. Canker, a hoof disease that was once quite rare, is also showing up in more horses than usual.
7. Loose shoes, lost shoes, and enlarged wall clinches were complaints this summer that had farriers? phones ringing off the hook. Soggy hoof walls don?t hold nails well, and many horses missed training or classes at shows because of loose or lost shoes. Cracked hooves may vary in their reaction to moisture; some will heal more quickly, others more slowly, depending on the health of the new tubules.
8. Foals born in the spring had their baby hooves exposed to maximum hydration if they were turned out with their dams. What effect will these extremes have on the hoof development of the foal crop this year?
Add your list of effects of the heavy rains (or drought, or hurricanes, or any extreme weather in your region) and keep your observations handy. The next time nature "overflows her banks," you'll remember how your horses reacted, and be ready to prevent or manage the damage.
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