Q&A: Flaky feet

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Q: I’ve discovered the soles of my 13-year-old horse’s hooves are cracking. Also, lumps of his frogs are peeling away. What’s causing this and can you suggest any good feed supplements to help?

Martin Humphrey replies: Your horse’s hooves do not need the help of a supplement. Lots of owners ask me about flaky or cracked looking soles because they are worried. In actual fact this is usually a sign of good hoof health.

The sole of a hoof is usually about half an inch thick (just over one centimetre) and takes two or three months to grow.

If it didn’t start to become flaky and crumbly by this time it would simply get thicker and thicker and the horse would gradually start to grow taller and taller.

So, thankfully the sole’s structure starts to break up so that it can be shed in small flakes.

When horses have flat feet or just thin soles which are very sensitive on uneven or stony ground, the soles tend to be very susceptible to bruising.

It would be unusual for them to show any signs of crumbling because they haven’t reached the right stage of thickness.

When trimming a hoof I pare away any sole which I feel to be excessive, in order to reduce the hoof to its ideal length.

It is best to remove any uneven lumps which the horse would most likely find uncomfortable, just like a human walking around with a stone taped to the bottom of their foot.

The frog does not seem to crumble easily as it is so rubbery and elastic in texture.

Instead it tends to come away in great big chunks. The best way to keep a frog healthy is for the farrier to trim it regularly to maintain it at the right size and shape. Otherwise it will grow too large and big lumps will start to separate away.

Thrush can also tend to get in at this stage.

It used to be tradition for farriers in the BritishIsles not to touch the frog with the hoof knife, but nowadays most will pare away any loose tags and try and reduce any excess growth to keep it in a good shape.

Read more hoof care advice:

Originally published on horseandhound.co.uk