Our horse’s hooves are important. Barefoot or shod, your horse is only as good as his feet are, so taking good care of them should be on the top of a horse owner’s “to do” list. Aaron Lee, owner of Aaron Lee Farrier Service, is an AFA-certified farrier in Central Vermont. He has competed in the World Championship Blacksmith horseshoeing contests, and is continually adding to his knowledge by attending clinics and symposiums. The following are the tips he gives to his own clients on what they should be doing to keep their horse’s hooves in great shape.
#1 – Handle Those Hooves
The first thing is to handle your horse’s feet regularly. Pick up their hooves, hold up a foot at a time so they get used to standing on three legs, and ask them to stand quietly. Having a well-mannered horse who is comfortable having their feet handled allows your farrier to take the time to perform a quality job on the horse’s hooves. It also allows you to inspect them and catch anything abnormal early on, before your horse becomes lame.
#2 – Pick Out Feet Before You Ride
Pick out your horse’s feet with a hoof pick before every ride. Pay particular attention to cleaning out either side of the frog to help prevent thrush. This also allows you to inspect the horse’s feet routinely to watch for stones or other potential problems, helps keep the horse comfortable when you’re riding, and helps keep the hoof healthy overall.
#3 – Keep Bedding Clean & Dry
If the horse isn’t on pasture all the time (i.e. if you keep it in a stall, barn, or run-in shed), make sure it has clean, dry bedding. This will help keep the hooves dry, which in turn keeps potential bacteria from building up and fosters a healthier hoof.
#4 – Use a Hoof Dressing For Wet/Dry Situations
Use a good hoof dressing if your horse’s feet will frequently be getting wet then dry, over and over again (for example, if you wash your horse’s feet frequently or if they spend nights outside in the dewy grass). These conditions lead a horse’s hoof to soak up water and swell, then dry back out and shrink, which stresses the hoof wall and can cause hoof cracking or clinches to raise on a horse with shoes. Hoof dressing helps maintain an even moisture content and a healthier hoof. (Note: image is not of a product Lee endorses, simply an example of a hoof dressing).
#5 – Inspect Shoes Regularly
If your horse is shod, inspect the shoes regularly to avoid problems such as the shoe loosening, the shoe shifting, the horse stepping on a branch and springing a heel, etc. This is easy to do while you’re handling their feet or picking out their hooves at the same time. The sooner you notice these things the quicker you can get your farrier out to fix them and the less likely your horse is to pull a shoe or have to endure discomfort.
#6 – Be Prepared To Pull a Shoe
If your horse is shod, have a pair of pull-offs and a rasp on hand in case your horse does step on a shoe and your farrier can’t come out right away. The pull-offs will allow you to pull a shoe if you need to until the farrier can get out to you, and the rasp will allow you to address any tears in the hoof wall or chunks of hoof hanging off if the horse does pull a shoe on its own. Rasp off any bits of broken hoof and round off any sharp edges on the hoof to minimize the chances of doing more damage to the hoof until the farrier can come out.
#7 – Use Supplements If Needed
Depending on the condition of your horse’s feet, a supplement can be useful, and there are several good ones out on the market. Supplements help promote quality hoof growth. Talk to your farrier or your vet for specific recommendations for your horse. (Note: image is not of a product Lee endorses, simply an example of a supplement)