We take walking for granted. We walk an average of over 5,000 steps a day, research shows.
If you do the math, that’s more than 75,000 miles over the course of your life (if you’re lucky enough to live a long and healthy life)!
Now, imagine your horse: most horses spend 15-17 hours a day outdoors on their feet. They easily walk five or more times what humans do — and that’s not taking into account the exercise, racing, and other labor a horse performs!
All that walking is tough on the soles of your horse’s feet. Stress due to improper foot care can cause lameness. It’s important to provide better hoof care and treatment at regular intervals to help your equine pal maintain strong and healthy hooves and feet.
But how? What exactly does it look like to provide better horse hoof care and treatment?
Silver Lining Herbs is here with answers, but shh. It’s a secret.
In this article, we’ll describe seven easy-to-learn, secret tricks and tips for better horse hoof care and treatment.
If you’re a horse owner, farrier, or racer trying to correct your horse's hoof problems, this blog is for you. Let’s dive in.
Why horse hoof care (and treatment) matters
Your lovable equine friend is more sensitive than they look. Despite weighing in at about 1,000-1,200 pounds, their feet are some of the most sensitive parts of their body.
When they’re racing and providing labor for you, it’s easy for nails, glass, and other sharp objects to lodge themselves in the thinner parts of their feet. If left untreated, lodged debris can cause a horse to go lame, bacteria and infection to spread, or worse yet, decrease your horse’s life expectancy.
On the flip side, with proper hoof care, treatment, and foot and bone support, your horse can expect to have strong bones and live a long, happy, and healthy life, full of exciting possibilities and adventures.
If for no other reason than ensuring a quality life for your horse, maintaining proper hoof care matters. Proper hoof care helps you decrease your chance of having to send your horse to the veterinarian for other common, preventable hoof problems later down the road — a topic that we’ll discuss in the next section.
Common hoof problems in horses
Some of the most common problems horses experience in their feet, heels, and hooves include the following:
- Poor shoeing or trimming (on a horse owner's or farrier’s part)
- Cracks in hooves (due to grass, sand, or blowouts)
- Thrush, abscesses, and other bacterial and fungal infections in the sole of the hoof (often occurs as a result of punctures in the foot or heel)
- Laminitis and founder
- General lameness
Proper nutrition (more on this topic later) and hoof care go a long way in preserving the health of your horse’s feet. Let’s talk about some of the tips and tricks for providing better hoof treatment and horse care for your horse’s precious hooves.
Breaking it down: better hoof treatment and care
Horse hoof care can be broken down and organized into the following categories:
- Trimming and shoeing
- Routine foot care and preventive hoof health measures
- Proper care for acute and chronic problems with the structures of the hooves
- Best practices for maintaining hoof balance and posture
- Better-care practices for horse owners
- Better-care practices for farriers
- All-natural supplements you can give your horse for feet and total body support
We’ll dive into each of these categories in the rest of the article.
Tricks for trimming your horse’s hooves
If you take nothing else from this article, it’s this: schedule regular trimmings and shoeing to reduce hoof problems. It’s that simple.
Horses need to be trimmed at the very least each summer and winter. Show horses may need more frequent trimmings. We recommend working with your local farrier to determine the right schedule for race horses or horses with special health concerns.
During the summer, it’s important to trim or shoe hooves every 6 to 8 weeks. Since hooves grow more slowly during the winter, you can trim or shoe your horse every six to 12 weeks during the winter.
What’s most important is that you keep their hooves balanced. When trimming the hooves, you want to make sure you create a straight line from the pastern down through the front of the hoof wall.
Keeping this angle will help you make sure that key bones — like the coffin bone and pastern — are lined up. Keeping bones aligned ensures your horse can support its weight and stay balanced from side to side, so that toes don’t extend past or behind knees (which can cause your horse discomfort. Yuck!).
If hoof health is impacted, you may want to try an anti-inflammatory herbal supplement to aid with your horse’s tender legs and soles. “Speaking of which, when exactly are you supposed to begin trimming your horse’s hooves?”
We’ve been asked this plenty of times and have just the answer for you in the next section.
Your first time trimming your horse’s hooves
It’s important to start trimming early and often. We recommend trimming your horse’s hooves when they’re at least one to two weeks old.
Some foals are born with toes that splay in (often called “pigeon-toed”) or out (“duck-toed”), which can be harmful for their posture, gait, and overall health.
By conducting a quick trim early on in your horse’s life — and by squaring the toe and ridding the front and hind hooves of any unnatural points — you’ll help correct for any deviations in posture, gait, and hoof structure.
When to provide corrective trimming
“But what if something goes wrong?” You might ask. “I trim my horse’s hooves every six to eight weeks — and I even started trimming my horse’s hooves early.
But my horse still has problems with their hooves. What should I do?”
Drum roll, please... cue corrective trimming!
This form of trimming is just how it sounds: it’s a practice involving more frequent trimming to help horses move with greater ease. Trimming and shoeing can correct imbalances in movement and are especially helpful for racehorses with long strides and uneven gaits.
Whether your horse is hauling heavy loads or racing ‘round the track, it’s important to maintain cleanliness and use proper tools when trimming your horse.
Once they’re properly trimmed, your horse will be ready for new shoes (and who doesn’t like new shoes?).
Tricks for shoeing your horse
Horses are on their feet longer than (most) humans, so they also need new shoes more often. The general rule of thumb is to fit your horse for new shoes every six to eight weeks.
With that said, age and level of activity play a large factor. New fillies and colts may not necessarily need shoes, whereas an adult work or race horse may go through shoes faster than a model on a runway.
When shoeing your horse, make sure to fit the shoe to a horse hooves — not the other way around — after trimming and shaping their hooves.
The most common tools and materials used for shoes are hammers, tongs, and aluminum, steel, or plastic nails. You’ll want to nail in the shoe in a straight line, about the size of the width of a nail, and about ¾’s of an inch up the hoof wall using a short clinch.
When it comes to ensuring a snug fit, the shoes should be built just large enough to allow enough room for your horse’s heel to widen or expand beyond the hoof width. A shoe that’s built with enough room for growth is one that ensures your horse’s hooves have room to grow into the shoe.
You’ll save yourself plenty of time, money, and stress by building a shoe that includes support for the toes, frog, and areas around the frog.
These tips (and more) can help you reduce stress and strain on horses’ bones and feet, while ensuring you provide holistic routine care for your horse.
Tricks for routine foot care
Depending on the horse, some prefer to spend more time in the barn than others. Regardless of your horse’s individual needs, the following tricks and tips are all about how to avoid infections in the heel, toes, and surrounding areas — both outside and inside the hoof.
Horses that are kept in a stall for long periods need to have their feet picked and cleaned daily to reduce the risk of bacterial infection, thrush, or serious lameness.
Horses that don’t hang out in the barn as often still need to have their hooves picked to help pick out debris and to keep the sole, frog, and hoof walls clean.
If a foreign body manages to lodge itself in the sensitive cleft of the frog, serious infection can occur, and more extensive ligament, tendon, bone, and joint supports may be needed.
By making sure to clean and pick your horse’s feet, you’ll help ensure your horse doesn’t experience any acute or chronic physical problems, diseases, or infections.
But if your horse does come down with an unexpected problem in their feet, not to worry. We’ll discuss what you need to know and should do to treat it.
Tricks for treating acute and chronic hoof problems
Before diving into the mysterious ways (Okay, they’re not so mysterious, but they’re very helpful!) for treating acute and chronic hoof problems, it’s helpful to provide a general list of the most common acute and chronic hoof problems horses experience.
Some of the most common hoof problems include:
- Founder or lameness
- Injury to the coronary band (also called coronet) and soft tissue structures
- Unshod hooves
- Injuries to the internal structure of the foot (e.g. coffin bone, plantar cushion, navicular bone, cannon bone, fetlock, tendons and ligaments, and sensitive laminae)
- White line disease
Most of these chronic and acute hoof problems can easily be solved with enough preventive care, time, and forethought. One way to prevent cracks and injuries and maintain flexibility is to ensure your horse has enough moisture in their feet.
By applying a horse dressing to the foot, massaging the coronet, and providing frequent therapeutic trimming and shoeing, you’ll ensure the sole is flexible, the hoof walls are strong, and the internal structures inside the hoof are strong and healthy.
Note: The right treatment will depend on the severity and length of time your horse has been experiencing hoof issues. If you feel your horse is experiencing a life-or-death hoof injury, call your veterinarian immediately.
Tricks for maintaining hoof balance and posture
One of the best ways to ensure your horse never experiences a life-or-death foot care-related scenario is to care for the heel, toe, hind, and front feet of your horse with balance and posture supports.
One trick to help support your horse’s posture and balance is to look first at the angle of the hoof wall. The hoof wall should be trimmed to prevent cracks, and the shoulder and pastern angles of the hoof wall should be anywhere from 40-55 degrees (depending on the horse).
Angles outside this range can result in extra stress on the columns, bones, and connective tissues supporting the leg.
If needed, you can create a healthy angle by elevating the heels with pads, keeping a short toe, and providing therapeutic massage to your horse. These supports can help ensure that your horse lifts and plants its toes and heels using proper posture and form.
To support proper hoof health, you can also feed horses a nutritional supplement in their daily feed. Our horses love our herbal bone and tendon support herbal supplements. Herbal Bone and Tendon Support helps strengthen ligaments, promote recovery from injury, and maintain healthy circulation of blood throughout the limbs.
It goes without saying that a well-postured and healthy horse needs tender loving care and plenty of support. Here’s what you can do — as a horse owner — to support your horse’s posture and gait.
Tricks for horse owners
We’ve discussed a whole bag of different tricks to help support healthy hooves. At Silver Lining Herbs, we believe that you should be empowered with the knowledge to make better decisions for your horse’s health.
We’ve created a short holistic list of horse-care items you — the horse owner — can do to keep your horse’s health and hooves in great condition from the get-go.
Trim and shoe your horse often.
- For unshod horses, you can trim every 10-12 weeks.
- For workhorses and racehorses, trim every 6-8 weeks.
- For foals, trim hooves when your foal is 1-2 weeks old.
- Clean and pick hooves daily.
- Keep the barn, stable, and stall clean and dry — and free of mud and moisture.
- Provide wholesome nutrition for your horse (Don’t forget: a happy horse is a healthy horse!).
- Ensure plenty of exercise, but don’t overdo it.
- Do your best to treat thrush and avoid shoe polishes that irritate the soles of your horses’ feet.
- Provide your farrier with a comfortable working area, complete with the tools they need to shoe your horse.
By keeping these quick tips in mind, you’ll be able to provide better long-term support for your horse and the farrier trimming your horse’s hooves (if applicable).
If you’re wondering what your farrier’s responsibilities are — and any tips or tricks to be aware of when working with them — you’re about to find out.
Tricks for horse farriers
A professional farrier’s job is to help shoe your horse. They’ll use tools like rasps to create the perfect shoes for your horse’s hooves.
The following tricks can be helpful to keep in mind when working with your farrier:
- For best results, schedule regular farrier visits every four to six weeks
- Prepare any questions you may have in advance. Your farrier is on the clock, so it can be helpful to have questions prepared in advance to make the most of their time.
- Make sure your farrier knows how to address common hoof problems (such as laminitis) before crafting your horse’s shoes. You want an expert who knows how to help with all types of hoof problems.
By preparing ahead of time, you and your farrier can help your horse thrive year-round for whatever life may throw your horse’s way.
Bonus: Nutrition-based tips and tricks for horses
While gulping down a healthy herbal supplement may not help dislodge a foreign object from a horse’s hooves (at least not yet!), the right nutrition can help ease and even eliminate some hoof problems.
Feeding quality hay, providing plenty of fresh, clean water, correcting poor nutrition with herbal supplements, and receiving hoof care support from a qualified equine health practitioner can help you care for your horse’s needs.
Whether you’re noticing signs of laminitis, swelling of the sensitive laminae, or inflammation of the bursa and other ligamentous structures, providing your horse with a diet rich in antioxidants and nutrients will go a long way in ensuring the health and care of your horses’ hooves.
TL;DR- Quick facts
The most important tricks and tips for better horse hoof care include the following:
- Trimming: trim hooves every 6-8 weeks in the summer and every 6-12 weeks in the winter.
- Shoeing: Shoe your horse every 4-6 weeks with the help of a professional farrier.
- Foot care: Infrequent foot care can cause lameness. Clean and pick your horses’ hooves daily to reduce the chance of lameness, infection, stress, and strain on your horse’s hooves.
- Acute and chronic problems: Therapeutic massages, dressing a horse’s hooves, and providing healthy nutrition can help reduce acute and chronic hoof problems.
- Hoof balance and posture: Provide pads, supports, and natural nutritional supplements that are high in antioxidants and nutrients to support bone and tendon health.
- Horse owners and farriers: Schedule a visit with a farrier every 4-6 weeks on average, and consult your equine health practitioner should you have questions about where to find a reliable farrier.
We hope the following tips and tricks were helpful. For more resources on hoof growth and how to provide better care for your horse, check out our blog or podcast. It’s jam-packed with helpful tips and tricks for year-round horse care.
Should you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time. We’re happy to help!