Oklahoma weather can be rough for a horse. Between our frigid winters and blazing-hot summers, the weather can wreak havoc on our horse’s feet. This summer has been especially hard on my horses’ feet. My personal horses live outside in a pasture, making them even more susceptible to the elements. The beginning of June brought a fair amount of rain, making their feet wet and soft. Then, it immediately turned dry and hot, resulting in dry cracked hooves.
(cracks are slooooowly growing out)
I left for vacation with my family at the beginning of July. While we relaxed by cool mountain streams, I kept getting reports of steady rainfall all week back home. I was excited about getting the moisture and hopefully promoting more hay growth, but I was inwardly concerned about my horses tromping around in the mud while I was gone. Sure enough, when I returned, my horses’ feet looked terrible.
I was so embarrassed by the state they were in! Among the three of them, I had to deal with a missing shoe, bruised soles, chips, cracks, and mild lameness. In a word, my horses look homeless. I did what any self-conscious horse owner would do and brought them in the barn to hide their hideous feet from prying eyes. Then, I sent a text to my farrier confirming that he would he be there soon, and begged him not to judge me. I learned my lesson to schedule the farrier a week earlier than vacation, rather than wait and put my horses’ feet in jeopardy. I also made a plan for healthy hoof growth, and decided it was time to take their hoof health to a deeper level.
First, I addressed immediate needs. Rusty’s long toes were sore from walking on the dried mud in his pasture, so I fed him a low dose of bute for three days to help relieve the pain. My next step was to pack his feet with Magic Cushion. This product is excellent to keep on-hand in case your horse’s hooves are sore, especially at shows or after long trail rides.
Hot Rod had pulled a shoe in the mud while I was gone, resulting in a chipped hoof. The best way to prevent a chipped hoof after your horse pulls a shoe, is to wrap the hoof in vetrap and duct tape. I also kept him in a stall until the farrier arrived, to hinder further damage.
Taking it one step deeper, I explored hoof supplement options for my horses. Since my horses eat very little feed and live on pasture, I realized they might not be consuming all the nutrition they need to promote healthy hoof growth. Nutrition is key to hoof health. I settled on a supplement called SmartHoof Ultra from SmartPak because of the amount essential vitamins and minerals it contains. Biotin, for instance, will promote the growth of strong hooves to prevent cracking and chipping, and Arginine helps support blood flow in the hoof.
As an added precaution, I stocked my grooming tote with hoof conditioner and sole paint. Oily hoof conditioners can hydrate the outside hoof wall during extreme dry weather. Or, it can be applied before bathing to create a barrier for the hoof wall from water and soap. Be careful not to overuse hoof dressings, since too much moisture can also cause problems. Sole paint is used specifically for the hoof soles, and it helps harden the hoof sole to prevent bruising. You can purchase pre-made sole paint or make your own with Iodine and turpentine. Ask your farrier for help making a batch to keep at home.
After following these steps, my horses are well on their way to recovering from their summer hoof issues. Remember, no hoof, no horse!
What are your favorite ways to keep your horse’s feet healthy and strong?