For Love of the Horse

Routine Hoof Care

This horse hadn't been trimmed for at least a year.

This horse hadn’t been trimmed for at least a year.

As a barefoot trimmer I have run into so many cases in which the said horse hasn’t been trimmed for a VERY long time.  In fact, when I trim a horse for the first time, I find that they’ve not been trimmed for at least 6 months, often longer.  Why?  This is a question I keep asking myself.

One of the first quotes we learn as “horse people” is, “no hoof, no horse”.  Well this makes sense since the hoof is bearing ALL of the weight of the horse.  Those four hooves take a lot of stress and pressure, yet foot care is one of THE MOST neglected horse management practices.  This is likely because it seems like the hoof can grow with no outward symptoms of lameness or any other problem, the farrier or trimmer can be called, and we come out and make the hoof look pretty again.  It seems as if no harm was done, at least on the outside.  Truth is, most lameness that impairs the usefulness of any horse can be prevented by proper management and routine hoof care.

Routine hoof care is important for the overall health of a horse.  Not trimming (and routinely cleaning your horse’s feet) can leave the hooves susceptible to disease and other problems.  If you don’t routinely have your horse trimmed, you CANNOT have a healthy foot.  You start having problems with cracks and separation and flares which can lead to infection and chronic abscessing.  You start having problems with underrun heels and long toes which can lead to Navicular and other lameness problems.  The evidence may not be seen right away, but the horse suffers in the end.

A hoof grows rapidly, about a quarter of an inch a month.  The “standard” for trimming has been a consistent 6-8 weeks.  This is not enough.  In the summer months, when growth is faster, you will find that 6 to 8 weeks is far too long between trims.  A normal healthy hoof will need trimmed every 3 to 5 weeks, horses with laminitis or severe cracks (among other serious problems) will need trimmed more often at times.

The above hoof after just one trim.

The above hoof after just one trim.

Routine trimming cannot be stressed enough.  The proper hoof care practices can keep your horse sound and healthy for years and years.  We do want our equine partners to be comfortable and healthy, right?  Routine hoof care should be as routine as making sure they have food and water.