Spring is an exciting time, the days are getting longer, temperatures are rising, winter is behind us and summer barn fun is just around the corner. Unfortunately, spring can be a difficult time for horse hooves to stay healthy. Between decreased exercise and pasture grazing over winter and the often muddy conditions throughout winter and spring, hoof health often suffers this time of year. No need to worry though, we have a few tips for springtime hoof care that can help you on your way to healthy hooves for summer fun.
The first tip is very basic but should never be overlooked, picking up and cleaning out your horse's hooves at least once every day, twice a day is even better. Not only is it important to clean out any debris, mud, and manure that has accumulated, this is a great opportunity to keep an eye on the condition of your horse's hooves.
Pay attention to what is "normal" for your horse in terms of hoof temperature, texture, smell (or lack of smell), and shape. Make note of any changes as they occur, these can be early warning signs of a number of health issues. It's also good to pay attention to how comfortable your horse is with having their hooves handled regularly. Most horses are accustomed to picking up their hooves when asked and will do so with little to no fuss so if one day they seem reluctant to give you one or more hooves, pay attention, that could be a sign of discomfort. The opposite can also be true, if a horse gradually becomes more comfortable with giving you their hooves, perhaps it was difficult for them before but it's becoming easier.
Our second tip is to stay on a regular schedule with your hoof care provider, whether that's a farrier or barefoot trimmer. Hoof growth often slows down over the winter so you and your farrier/trimmer may decide to increase the amount of time between visits during the colder months but that should be re-evaluated in the spring. As convenient as it is to keep your horses on an 8-10 week cycle, if your horse needs to be trimmed every 4-6 weeks, it's important to listen to your trimmer/farrier. You may actually end up spending more money on corrective trimming if you let your horses hooves go for too long between trims. The same principle applies to trying to trim your horse on your own without proper training. If you'd like to increase the time between trims, maybe ask your farrier/trimmer to show you how to do some basic maintenance between visits.
Our third tip for you is to consider adding a hoof supplement to your horse's diet. Winter can be a difficult time for your horse to get all the required nutrients for hoof growth so adding a dietary hoof supplement in the spring can help jumpstart your horse's hoof growth and strength. You may want to confer with your horse's vet and farrier to determine the right supplement for your horse as there are a lot of options on the market.
Tip number four is to help protect your horses from extreme environmental conditions or swings with a topical treatment. Neither extremely wet or dry conditions are conducive to healthy hooves but the hardest thing for hooves to endure is swinging from one to the other and back. The right topical treatment can help your horse maintain a healthy hoof moisture level by locking in the required moisture and blocking out the excess. A few of our favorites include Life Data Farrier's Finish, RATE Hoof Balance, and Hoof Shield.
Finally, try to avoid turning your horse out in mud. We understand this much more easily said than done but when possible, keep your horse out of excessive mud. Not only does muddy turnout often lead to thrush, it can also increase your horse's chance of injury due to falls or tendon strains. Turnout is important for hoof health but ideal turnout conditions make a big difference. Look into your options for minimizing mud in paddocks if you're in an area that is prone to getting wet and staying that way.
If you have any questions about spring hoof care, contact us HERE now.