Having a sound, happy horse means we can spend more time enjoying being in the saddle. We asked farrier Jack Climo for the best way to keep a horse’s feet in great shape as we head into autumn.
“It’s important that the horse’s hoof maintains a consistent moisture level,” says Jack. “They can adapt very well to long dry periods or to constant wet like most of our winters, but what the hoof struggles with is wet-dry-wet conditions.
“When the hoof is exposed to moisture it expands and softens, whereas when it is dry it contracts. Changes in moisture levels mean the hoof wall is constantly expanding and contracting, which can lead to loose nails, hoof wall cracks and foot abscesses.”
To help maintain a consistent moisture content, Jack recommends applying a moisturising hoof conditioner to help trap moisture in and prevent hooves from becoming dry and brittle.
Remember that all horses are individuals. “What works for your horse might not work for another,” says Jack. “Work out the best hoof care routine for your horse and stick to it. Speak to your farrier if you have any concerns, and keep on top of any issues as they arise.”
Six autumn hoof care tips
Jack has the following top tips for keeping your horse’s feet in great condition during the changing seasons:
- Pick out your horse’s feet twice a day. This helps to keep on top of any issues that might be developing – the earlier they are caught the better.
- After picking out, apply a hoof moisturiser or oil to help keep the hooves well moisturised.
- Make sure you have regular farrier visits. Long toes and unbalanced feet will increase strain on the foot, which can cause cracking, bruising and lameness.
- Maintain a balanced diet. A horse lacking in vitamins and minerals will have poor quality feet that become brittle and weak. If your horse is not receiving supplementary feeds, consider adding a balancer or vitamin and mineral supplement.
- Consider feeding a biotin supplement to improve hoof quality if he has poor quality hooves. Remember that this can take six to nine months to have any effect as this is how long it takes new hoof to grow, so don’t give up if you don’t see results quickly.
- Be aware that bedding can impact moisture in the foot. Shavings generally offer optimum moisture levels, whereas straw can dry the hooves and increase the risk of thrush.
Meet the expert: Jack Climo Dip WCF is a Worcestershire-based farrier who qualified from Warwickshire College in November 2019. He has set up his own farriery business and shoes all shapes and sizes of horse and pony, from leisure horses to three-day eventers.