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The most important part of the massive creature that we know as the horse, is most likely their hooves. It’s such a small and almost delicate foot for an animal of such stature. A healthy hoof is essential to their well-being and ability to work and run. A horse will become lame if the hooves are not kept healthy and this means possible death for him. A horse that develops severe issues with is hooves is at risk because if he goes down, you have a very difficult time getting him up again.
Laminitis and other issues with the legs and hooves are a curse with horses so it is very important that you work hard to keep them healthy. Many people prefer to use natural hoof care and there is no reason why you shouldn’t. It’s not expensive and it is very safe for them. Hoof care should be a part of your daily rituals with your horse.
The Whole Horse Boils Down to the Hoof
What this means is that most of what is happening with the horse’s health can be seen and/or determined by the hoof. A careful examination of the hooves can tell a story for the horse, who can’t speak to you.
Sadly, many people who keep horses don’t pay nearly enough attention to the hooves. We’re not talking about picking the dirt out when you brush the horse out, we’re talking about a thorough examination of the hooves, touching and palpitating the area of the frog and the entire surface area of the outside of the hoof as well.
The hooves pay the price when the body of the horse isn’t being well-cared for. This is a fact. The body, whether it be that of a horse or a human, is very intelligent. It prioritizes nutrients and water use. When your horse doesn’t get the right nutrition in his diet, it will show in his hooves. In fact, the skin, the coat, and the hooves will be last to get any of the nutrients from their dietary intake when they are not getting enough.
Start with Their Feed
A feed that isn’t natural and is poorly balanced and filled with chemical additives is not the way to keep your horse healthy. It is the fastest way to poor health, in fact. The hooves will pay the price.
Getting a good horse feed that is natural from your feed store will go a very long way in ensuring that your horse stays healthy and that his hooves are paying the price for poor nutrition. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of healthy hooves.
Rings on a horse's hooves can be indicators of periods of stress and poor diet or care. They may be indicative of injury as well. Many horse people don’t pay any attention to these ridges but it is likely that if you refer to them as ‘founder ridges’ that their ears would perk up like a horse that has caught wind of a big cat.
A barefoot horse is reliant upon good nutrition, proper movement, and a good trim. Having a great farrier is a key ingredient to natural hoof care that may be overlooked as well. If you aren’t very experienced, it’s best to leave hoof care in the hands of a farrier with years of experience.
Make sure that you’ve chosen a farrier who understands natural hoof care and knows what you are expecting. Checking an Equine Guide for proper hoof angles and shape is certainly fine to do. You should research this and get to know it very well, in fact.
If you’ve done this much so far and your horse still doesn’t seem to have the healthy hooves that you are shooting for, then you’re likely missing something in the diet. Do some homework and research other types of feed. Ask other horse caregivers what they are using and with what sort of results.
“Hooves should have short toes and low heels,” according to Stephanie Krahl, a horse expert. The hoof shouldn’t be too long in the front, it should be rounded and more compact. If your horse’s hooves don’t look like this, speak to your farrier about it or find a new farrier.
How does your horse move? Watch his feet as he brings his hoof down. It should meet the ground with the backside if his hoof first, the heel striking the ground and then the front of the hoof which we would consider the toe of the hoof. Landing toe first can be an issue that is problematic and a result of many different issues, but one of the reasons may very well be diet.
A stretched white line is an indication of poor diet and over time, it can cause the hoof to become elongated and interfere with proper movement. Any of these issues can become serious and lead to a lame animal.
Trimming flares shouldn’t be done all at one time either. This needs to be carefully cut back and smooth with each trim until it is a proper shape. Doing it all at one time isn’t good for the horse. If the hooves continue to flare between cuttings then there is very likely a diet issue, certainly poor nutrition for some reason.
The frog of the hoof should be thick and calloused, however, they will vary in the look from one horse to the next. It depends on how much they are ridden and on what type of surfaces they are moving on the majority of the time.
A good, straight line and angle of the hoof are simply essential for the health of the horse. You can learn a lot about taking care of this naturally, and you’ll find that diet is a large part of the puzzle. An Equine Guide to help you while you master the world of natural hooves is time well spent. Ask questions and learn constantly. Hoof care is a daily, weekly, and monthly thing.