9 essential tips for winter hoof care: prevention is better than cure

The horse’s hoof is a fantastic piece of biological engineering, but it does face a number of challenges, 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 hooves daily.

2. To give the hooves the chance to adapt to the typical changes in environmental conditions that occur during the winter, bring horses in from muddy fields for several hours a day 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 can develop, which then give organisms access to underlying structures. Skilled farriery is required to maintain healthy hooves, so don’t skip your farrier’s visits, even if your horse isn’t being worked as much during the winter.

4. Assessment of the hoof at rest and during the normal foot flight is essential to maintain this degree of balance. Ask your farrier to assess your 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 can also provide support.

8. Coating the hoof with a sugar and iodine mix is a good way to harden and dry out the sole, although it should be used with care to avoid drying out the hoof too much.

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9. While there are nutritional supplements formulated to help support the growth of healthy hooves, there is no evidence they can help manage the moisture content of the horse’s hoof. Instead, the use of barrier creams may help prevent excessive moisture absorption through the sole.

Don’t miss the latest issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out today (29 November 2018) for our festive special including our first ever advent calendar cover and pages of gift guides for him, her, children and our four-legged companions.