Part of your horse care routine focuses a lot on their hooves. While the wild horses usually move through different terrains so they are able to naturally take care of their hooves and toenails, domestic horses need you to get the services of a good farrier to always check on their hoof needs, whether shod or not.
There are so many problems that your horse’s hooves may encounter, some actually cause lameness. Some include:
Thrush – It is caused by wetness around the barn and could lead to a blackish residue around the frogs. Keep the barn area dry and clean to avoid this.
Hotnail – It happens when the shoe nail gets into the sensitive part of the horse’s hoof. Proper care should be taken as it can lead to a serious infection. The hoof should be soaked in Epsom salt then bandaged until it gets better.
There are of course so many others that we will not focus on but fortunately, a good farrier, good hygiene and nutrition will be able to keep these worries at bay.
Proper horse nutrition is mandatory in ensuring your equine friend has healthy hooves. Feeding the horse with quality hay and the right amount of vitamin supplements ensures that the horse stays energetic, has strong bones and is not susceptible to hoof problems.
This brings us to the question of whether a horse should be shod or not. The choice is largely dependent on the horse’s unique needs and the surrounding environment. For instance, a horse that does not work regularly can be kept unshod for the period of time it is resting. Pasture potatoes may also do without shoeing unless recommended. A healthy horse will have strong bones and hooves so they may not need to be shod at all. This is why we really insist on proper nutrition for the horse.
Horse shoes are a bit more expensive than keeping the horse unshod. Apart from this, the shoes may get caught on something and cause injury. Another problem is the way the shoe prevents the hoof from getting picked clean most of the time. Let’s not forget that getting kicked by a shod hoof could cause a lot more damage than a bare hoof!
Hoof trimming is very important to help with proper balance for the horse. Imagine walking around in shoes that have uneven heels! Not only is it uncomfortable and unstable, it could ruin your back and leg muscles. Domestic horses need to have their hooves taken care of regularly because as mentioned earlier, they do not move around enough for their hooves to trim naturally.
Shoeing is good for the working horse especially if done by a qualified farrier and at a regular interval of 4-6 weeks. However, even horses that work regularly can do without being shod. Proper hoof care keeps the hooves strong as nature intended them to be. When you combine good care and nutrition for the equine animals, they will live very well without horse shoes, which saves you the extra costs.
Nowadays, the job of trimming and looking after your horse’s hooves is something you can easily learn through research. Hands on practice helps you get better at it quicker too, so you do not have to employ the services of a farrier every time your horse needs trimming.
Be careful however… The decision to go barefoot needs to have the input of your farrier. You might think you are doing the horse some good but you may end up with an injured horse which would cost you way more!