The Crackdown on Cracked Hooves
We all know the old familiar phrase “no foot, no horse.” We’ve heard it from our farriers, our veterinarians and our fellow horse friends. The vitality of the horse sits solely on taking thorough care of your horse’s feet.
Summer brings a whirlwind of rodeos, shows and jackpots but it’s not the only thing summer brings. Summer also sets the stage for horses' hooves to dry out and become brittle and weak.
The majority of cracks are a result of concussion from moving, particularly on hard ground. This can cause cracks to form in the outer wall of the hoof, starting at the toe and eventually working their way up to the coronet band.
It is also very important that horse owners educate themselves on what cracks look like, because if the cracks are left to progress untreated, it can cause irreparable damage to the hoof and result in severe lameness.
As a horse owner, if you start to notice cracks forming, immediately get your farrier to take a look to decide if some kind of remedial farrier work should be done, such as putting pads between the hoof and the shoe to take some of the concussion away. Also, your farrier may need to visit more frequently to shoe your horse.
As with anything, there are some horses that are going to be more prone than others, but the most important thing to remember is that every horse is an individual, and with the different environments, moving your horse from one environment to another can cause some changes in their hooves and overall health.
If your horse is turned out in a pasture or pen that is flooded, it is more likely that you will experience cracked hooves. Excess moisture can makes hooves weak and therefore prone to cracking. The wet and dry cycle, where the hooves get soaked and then dry out, is a huge contributing factor that causes cracks.
“What causes the cracks is altering their environment," farrier Bill Climer said. "The more consistent you keep your horse’s environment, the better your chances are you won’t have a problem. Keep things consistent; that is the best advice I can give as a farrier. It’s as beneficial as anything, along with remembering horses are individuals. What works for one may not work for the next, and vice versa."
Another factor seen not only during the summer is improper nail placement.
“If your farrier can be a minimalist in terms of nailing and put two clips on and four nails total, the result does a lot less damage to those feet,” Climer said.
Another treatment popular among farriers is to apply a hoof hardener or sealer. Unlike a greasy or creamy hoof dressing that is smeared on only the surface of the hoof, a hoof sealer is a thin liquid that soaks into the hoof and provides a longer lasting, more effective moisture barrier.
No matter where you call home, always be aware of the climate changes and how they can negatively affect your horse’s hooves. And remember, when there is no hoof, there is no horse.