If you've ever heard the saying, "No hoof, no horse," then you know how important it is to promote healthy hooves in your horse.
Hooves are the foundation that your horse stands upon. The healthier your horse's hooves are, the better chance he has at staying sound and injury-free.
While some hereditary factors influence the health of your horse's hooves, there are also a number of things that you can do to promote healthy hooves.
Choose Terrain Carefully
Carefully choose the terrain that you work your horse on. Choosing an area where the footing is too rough or hard increases the concussive force on your horse's hooves. This can lead to sore hooves and joints, chipping in the hooves, and in extreme cases, navicular disease.
Ride your horse in an area which provides optimum footing and is relatively free of rocks.
Avoid Excess Mud
Mud is the enemy of healthy hooves. Mud can soften and weaken hooves, leaving your horse prone to stone bruises and abscesses. Mud-packed hooves are also at risk of developing thrush.
Try to minimize the amount of mud on your farm, and rotate pastures so that your horse goes out in a fairly dry area.
Schedule Regular Farrier Visits
Your horse needs to see the farrier on a regular basis in order to keep his hooves healthy. Make sure that your horse sees the farrier every six weeks, even if he just needs a trim and doesn't wear shoes. Letting your horse go too far between trims can leave his hooves uneven, lead to improper angles, and increase the chance of your horse damaging or breaking off parts of his hooves.
It's also a good idea to consult with your farrier to determine whether your horse may need shoes to help protect his hooves. Some horses need shoes, depending on the type of riding that you do and the surfaces that you travel over. Other horses do fine without shoes. If your horse's hooves are excessively wearing or weakening, adding shoes may help to improve their condition.
Provide Proper Nutrition
Your horse's hooves will only be as good as the nutrition that you provide him. In order to grow healthy hooves, your horse's body needs adequate nutrition to produce quality hoof growth.
Make sure that your horse isn't lacking in any nutrients, and that he maintains a proper body weight. It may be worth it to consult with an equine nutritionist to make sure that your feeding plan meets your horse's needs and sets him up for quality hoof growth.
Consider Supplementary Methods
There are a number of additional ways that you can promote healthy hooves in your horse. Consider putting your horse on one of the many hoof growth supplements available for purchase. You may also want to use hoof conditioners or hoof hardeners on your horse's hooves to help them achieve optimum condition.
If you're having trouble maintaining your horse's hooves, then it's time to consult with your farrier or vet. When it comes to hoof issues, it's best to stay ahead of the problem and prevent further damage as much as possible, since it can take a long time for your horse to grow new hoof and overcome previous damage.