After a long cold winter, spring is finally here! I am glad for warmer temperatures and more daylight hours to spend outside. The one downside to spring’s arrival is the thunderstorms and rain that come with it. Wet and muddy pastures can cause many issues for horses including hoof problems. Below I am sharing with you some common problems you want to watch for and try to avoid for the long-term health of your horse.
Common Hoof Problems to Avoid
Even with the best attempts to limit your horse’s exposure to muddy conditions, sometimes it can’t be avoided. In anticipation of the rain that is sure to come within the next few weeks, let’s take a look at some problems to watch for in your horses. We all know that leg health is important for a horse, and that often comes with the hoof as the beginning of an issue.
Below you will find common ailments that you can watch for, and in some cases prevent. These will help you to keep your horse healthier and ultimately make their lives easier and happier.
Just like for us humans, slippery mud can be dangerous for our horses. Often a horse will lose a shoe when they slip in the mud and try to regain their footing. In this case, the mud doesn’t suck the shoe off but instead, the horse pulls it off with their back hoof while trying to steady themselves. The shoe becomes buried deep in the mud and it’s difficult if not impossible to find. This hoof problem can sometimes be helped by either allowing your horse to go barefoot in the mud or by fitting your horse with rim shoes.
Of course, this isn't the only way a horse can lose a shoe, it just happens to be in mind due to the rainy season. Other reasons include kicking and pawing at their stall or other items. While it doesn't happen regularly with all horses, it is something that can be an issue and should be watched for regularly.
Bacteria often can grow in muddy and wet conditions and this can wreak havoc on your horses’ feet often causing abscesses. When this bacterium gets trapped inside the hoof, it can reach all areas of the hoof and cause an infection. If your horse has been in muddy conditions, it is important to watch for any limping or favoring one leg over the others. This could be an indicator that there is an infection and possible abscess.
An abscess will have built-up pus which will either release on its own or may need to be drained. If you are comfortable with or have training for caring for your horse’s hooves, then you can drain the abscess but if you are uncertain it is always wise to consult a veterinarian. The good news about this hoof issue is that when drained, bandaged, and allowed to be clean and heal an abscess will usually clear up nicely.
Having a good farrier on speed dial is a must when you own a horse, and they are often a great choice to help you deal with hoof absecces. While there are many things they can do, including hoof abscess treatments, it is always smart to reach out to your veterinarian for input. Keep in mind that while not often, abscesses can be a sign of other serious illnesses in horses to be managed.
When your horse spends time on the wet or muddy ground, the soles of its hooves begin to soften. This can be painful for your horse as they can bruise easier, and their hooves will be more sensitive. As with other hoof issues, your horse's limping can be an indicator of this issue.
You may not be able to see a bruise immediately or at all depending on your horse. If you can identify the bruise, then you may want to begin immediate treatment. One step is to soak the injured foot in a bucket of ice water to help reduce the swelling.
Keeping your horse’s hooves dry and on solid ground is the best way to avoid bruising. But when muddy terrain can’t be avoided then be sure your horse’s stall is kept clean and dry so they can retreat from the wet conditions. Here are some more ways to keep your horses hooves in good condition to keep in mind that can help in this situation.
Thrush is another commonly seen issue in horse hooves. It is caused when bacteria from mud is packed into the hoof. Thrush eats away at the hoof’s tissue causing an infection with a dark gooey discharge that has a rancid odor.
When caring for your horse’s hooves, be aware of any color changes which could indicate Thrush. The treatment for Thrush is to apply a commercial medication to the infected hoof. To help prevent thrush be sure to clean and pick your horse’s hooves daily before and after riding.
Thrush is an anaerobic bacteria and fungi that in this case are not contagious to the other horses but can be seriously disruptive to any horse that is affected. Lots of cleaning in your barn and following these barn safety tips can help significantly in their comfort as it heals.
White Line Disease
The last issue to mention is the common struggle with White Line Disease. This disease has been around a long time but has been called many other names; hoof rot, yeast infections, Candida, and stall rot to name a few.
White Line Disease is a fungal disease that attacks the hoof when a crack or crevice in the hoof allows the bacteria to enter. This fungal bacterium lives without oxygen, so it requires some separation of the hoof wall to thrive. This is a common issue if a hoof has been injured and didn’t heal correctly leaving an entry for the bacteria.
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White Line Disease is sometimes difficult to detect, and the horse may not indicate any limping until it has reached sensitive areas of the hoof. If you suspect your horse may have White Line Disease, then it would be wise to consult your farrier or veterinarian. There are a variety of ways to treat this before it becomes too hard to manage.
It isn’t always possible to keep your horse in a clean and dry environment so hopefully, these tips will give you new ideas for keeping your horse healthy.