If your horse’s hoof horn is poor and his hooves split easily, can dietary changes really help to strengthen his feet? And what can we do through winter to keep our horse’s hooves healthy? Farrier Glyn Trundle explains:

Hoof health is dependent on many factors, not just diet. Other factors that influence hoof quality are age, wellbeing and breeding. Below are some factors we can consider and manage:

  • Turnout conditions
  • Working environment (arena surface) and road work (concussion)
  • Stable management and the type of bedding used – even with rubber matting, adequate bedding is still required to load up urine so horses aren’t standing in wet all the time.
  • Good hoof hygiene – picking out feet regularly and applying topical treatments as necessary, such as hoof conditioners, purple spray/iodine for thrush and so on
  • Shoeing/trimming at regular intervals by a conscientious farrier

Of course diet is important, and a well-balanced diet with good quality forage and ample grass all play a part in hoof health.

Most of the large feed companies employ nutritionists – call or email them with your concerns and they’ll recommend the correct products and balancers.

Winter regime

First and foremost, a good routine for farrier visits is essential. Your farrier will pick up any problems in the early stages and advise on how to manage them.

Even if you don’t have perfectly clean conditions, a little effort, like some towels and a flask of tea, will help your farrier do their best work for you!

In an ideal world, when you bring your horse in from the field his legs and feet should be hosed off and towel dried.

Some mud, if left on, seems to draw moisture out of the hoof when it dries and makes hooves brittle.

Next, pick out the soles and frog clefts well, then apply a good quality hoof treatment.

Applying a hoof dressing to the sole will help to prevent snow balling up too. At the same time, do a visual check for mud fever and sore heels.

Don’t think that moisturisers and hoof treatments are a waste of time in the wet. They’re very good at maintaining a steady moisture level in the hoof horn, which means that you’re not exposing it to extremes of environment like a wet field then a dry stable.

Some companies sell winter variants of their hoof care products that are more durable in the extreme conditions – these are worth checking out.

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