The horse’s hoof is a fantastic piece of biological engineering, but it does have its limitations, especially when moisture is involved. Ricky Farr MRCVS gives some helpful tips on how to keep your horse’s hooves healthy through the winter with some easy to follow preventative measures.

1. Clean and pick out feet daily

2. The process of using a wet poultice to burst a foot abscess is to soften the sole, but if left on for too long, the foot suffers. Get the foot used to changes in environmental conditions and bring horses in from muddy fields for several hours to allow the foot to dry out.

3. An unbalanced foot is more prone to developing flares, which results in uneven strain on the hoof wall. Consequently grass/sand cracks develop and organisms can access underlying structures. Skilled farriery is required to maintain healthy hooves.

4. Assessment of the hoof at rest and during the normal foot flight is essential to maintain this degree of balance. A farrier should assess a horse’s foot in this way regularly.

5. Having the toe rolled and giving heel support can improve sole depth.

6. Foals are born with soft feet and, until the foot dries, are prone to erosion. It is important to give them adequate time on dry bedding in order for this to happen.

7. Ensure access to a dry standing area at all times. Dry shavings packed into the sole also provide support.

8. Packing the hoof with a sugar and iodine mix is a good way to harden and dry out the sole. However, drying agents are easily overdone with prolonged use.

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9. While there is little evidence that dietary hoof supplements will help manage the moisture content of the horse’s hoof, barrier creams/solutions may help prevent excessive moisture absorption through the sole.

Don’t miss the latest issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out now (2 November 2017) for the vet special, with 32 pages of tips and insight