Summer is finally on its way, bringing nice weather and horsey adventures. With fun summer plans in the works, we all want to make sure our horses stay happy and healthy through the good-weather months. While we can't bubble wrap your horse for you, we have a few tips to help you keep your horse's hooves healthy this summer.
As always, our first tip is to keep up with basic daily hoof care, including picking out all 4 hooves at least once per day. Thoroughly cleaning your horse's hooves every day allows you to remove any potentially harmful debris, such as rocks or sticks, before it causes a problem. Daily hoof cleaning also give you the chance to keep an eye on any hoof changes or damage (cracks, flares, etc.) as soon as they occur so they can be addressed promptly.
Along with daily hoof picking, regular visits from a professional hoof care specialist, whether that be a farrier or barefoot trimmer, is a vital piece of the puzzle for keeping your horse's hooves happy and healthy. Your hoof care professional can help keep the hooves balanced appropriately for your horse's specific needs. A farrier or trimmer may also notice subtle hoof changes or abnormalities that we may miss as horse owners. Ask your hoof care professional how often he or she needs to see your horse during the summer as this may be different than your winter trimming schedule due to changes in hoof growth rate. You may also want to ask your farrier or trimmer about basic maintenance work you can do to help your horse between professional trims. If you would like help narrowing down which tools to get based on the maintenance your farrier or trimmer recommends, you can reach out to us here.
One of the biggest summer hoof health hurdles to be tackled is the bug factor. We worry about bugs for a multitude of reasons in the summer but often the effect they have on hooves is overlooked. As your horse gets pestered by the relentless summer bugs, you will see him or her stomping angrily to get the pesky little bugs off his or her legs momentarily. This constant stomping can lead to hoof cracks, especially when done on the typically hard/dry summer ground. In order to minimize the stomping, be sure to spray your horse's legs down with fly spray before turnout. Sadly, we know fly spray alone will not keep the bugs away for long so you may want to consider adding fly boots to your horse's fly gear.
Another environmental factor to consider is the ground your horse is standing on. Depending where you and your horse live, the ground may be very soft and wet or dry and hard. Either of these environmental extremes can lead to hoof problems but even more challenging for hoof health is footing that swaps back and forth between wet and dry. One way to help your horse's hooves deal with the environmental factors is by applying a topical product that helps maintain the proper moisture balance in your horse's hooves, such as Life Data Farrier's Finish or RATE Hoof Balance. These products should help keep your horse's hooves from getting either too soft or too dry but they will work best if you still limit the amount of time your horse spends standing in muddy conditions after spring and summer rains.
While you monitor your horse's paddock for mud and extreme conditions, you may also want to keep an eye on the grazing available and how your horse handles it. Weight gain can be a concern on lush green pastures for a myriad of reasons but the most relevant to hoof health is the risk of laminitis and founder that comes along with overweight horses. Nobody likes seeing a ribby or underweight horse but it is at least equally as dangerous, if not more dangerous, for a horse to be overweight. It can be difficult to recognize weight gain in your horse if you see him or her every day so you may want to take a conformation-type picture every 2-4 weeks and keep a journal of sorts to track how your horse's body changes throughout the season or even the whole year. As an added bonus, this is also a great way to track muscle development and you get extra pictures of your horse to enjoy. If your horse seems to be either gaining or dropping weight, ask your vet about options to help horse horse maintain a healthy weight.
Lastly, remember to stay hydrated (both you and your horse) as hydration is one of the key components for overall health. Most importantly, enjoy the summer with your horse and remember to reach out to us here with any hoof-related questions.