If you own a horse, one of the most crucial cornerstones of caring for them is taking care of their hooves. If your horse’s feet are not in good condition, they may be on the pathway that will bring them nothing but trouble (if they can even move well enough to trek down that path). No matter how strong or well-trained the horse may be, unhealthy hooves will be a roadblock to them reaching their full potential.
While there are some factors that determine horse hoof health that can be out of your control such as the age of your horse, their breed or genetics, an attentive and diligent owner will do whatever is in their power to promote healthy hooves.
What are the Best Hoof Care Products for your Horse?
The factors that you can influence can be providing adequate nutrition that promotes strong limbs as well as healthy hooves, a consistent activity and exercise regiment, a safe environment that is easy on your horses feet and most of all, regular professional hoof maintenance which includes routine trimming, shoeing and cleanup.
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Your horse’s hooves need to be maintained and balanced and need to be given the proper attention. Proper attention can only be done however, with the proper hoof care products at your disposal. Before you look into products for your horse, it’s best to first consider your horse’s environment.
The Role Environment Plays In Hoof Health
Environment plays a large role in the condition of the hooves and the rate in which they grow. Depending on the environment the horse is active in, their horse’s feet will essentially mirror it. If your horse grazes and walks upon a dry environment, their hooves will typically be hard and rigid.
In environments that are more muddy and damp, their feet will usually be soft and excessively pliable, which can lead to problems such as excessive flaring and their walls being separated which makes their soles vulnerable to bruises.
What you want to avoid is extreme conditions on either side of the spectrum. If you are in an environment that carries an excessive amount of moisture, you are going to want to provide a dry area for your horse so they can get out of muddy footing and have some contrast. The opposite is the case in dry environments as it will be important to find ways to add moisture to their feet.
The Must-Have Items For Hoof Care
Whether you prefer to go to a tack store in person and shop for hoof care products or you like to shop online for hoof care tools, if you want to care for your horse’s hooves, there are essential tools that you just can’t go without if you want the job done right. The most important items are as follows:
Hooves should be picked out at least once a day on your horse to check for rocks, debris or any other material that may have been lodged in the hoof as it can cause lots of discomfort. Not cleaning your horse’s hooves regularly with the help of a hoof pick can lead to issues like thrush which will make your horse’s hooves have a really foul odor.
A hoof pick may come on it’s own and just consists of a handle and a sharp metal pick or if can conveniently be combined with a brush which can come in handle to brush away little particles.
It’s important to not skimp when purchasing a hoof pick since cheaper pinks are made with softer quality material and it may not do as great and thorough of a job as a pick that is stiffer. Cheap picks also wear out really fast so you might as well buy a high quality pick that will have longevity rather than purchase a cheap pick that may break after some time and you’ll have to buy a new one.
A stiff bristled brush or wire brush is another simple but helpful item to use to give your horse’s hooves a good scrubbing with soap and water which will help to remove dried up mud or dead tissue that can house pathogens that can develop into thrush.
After you have used the pick to clean out the sole and sides of the hoof, a detailed brushing of the hoof will get out all that fine debris that the pick couldn’t. As mentioned above, there are hoof picks that come with attached brushes but professionals recommend investing in a hoof brush that stands on its own.
Just like with a hoof pick, it’s important to purchase a quality brush, not just because of the stronger bristles but also for the sake of longevity due to durable material. If you purchase a good hoof brush, chances are you won’t need to buy another one for years.
If your horse’s hooves are overgrown, hoof nippers play a part in cutting off the excess and get the hoof wall down to a good length. These are also used to trim the frog of the hoof. While trimming should be left to the professionals, it is nice if you are trained enough to have one in your hoof care box during those times where you can’t get a farrier to your horse in a timely fashion.
A rasp is the horse hoof equivalent of a nail filer for fingernails. A good quality rasp can help to smooth out any chips and even out the hoof in between visits to the farrier. They are also good to round off any sharp edges of the hoof that may occur as the horse walks on trails.
Also called a crease nail puller, shoes pullers basically look like a supersized version of a pair of pliers.
The name says it all for this tool: this is used to pull off the horse’s shoe when it is necessary to pull off or you notice that a shoe is loose.
It’s necessary to be gentle and be patient in working the shoe off as more sensitive horses may find it uncomfortable or even painful if you act very roughly in getting the shoe off.
Complementary Items For Hoof Care
Topical hoof hardener
Hoof hardeners are a liquid designed to toughen the horse’s hooves to make it more resistant to chipping or cracking while walking especially if you have a horse that has weak hooves or if you are in one of those two extreme environments we mentioned earlier (a very wet or very dry environment). This product can be easily added to the outer coating of the hoof wall and is good to apply during a trimming.
Thrush is unpleasant for both horse and owner. When thrush does show up, it can lead to a foul smell since it is basically a bacterial infection. Thrush treatment refers to any topical product that is an antiseptic and contains ingredients to prevent and treat thrush. Something as simple as applying neem oil can do wonders in getting rid of thrush and keeping your horses hooves healthy.
From time to time, your horse may suffer from soreness and inflammation from the wear and tear of an active day and that is why an application of poultice can be so helpful. Poultice is basically made of a moist clay or a combination of Epsom salts and other medicinal ingredients that can reduce inflammation and can also help drain the fluid from abscesses on the underside of the hoof, which can be a great relief of pain for the horse. An easy to apply poultice sheet can suck the infection from the wound and prevent future issues.
Hoof Soak Bucket
A hoof soak bucket can help a horse that has abscesses on their hooves as soaking them can help them to burst which could provide pain relief and can make it easier to treat for any infections or diseases.
Duct Tape and Gauze Pads.
Duct tape is such a durable household item that can come in handy for a variety of problems and can also come in handy on your horse to help with bandaging (when used along with gauze.) Duct Tape and gauze can be used to make a makeshift band-aid to wrap around a hoof of a horse who has either lost their shoe or there is an abscess that is burst and you need to buy some time before a farrier can arrive and take care of your horse.
Duct tape is a preferred item over other items such as Vetrap because they usually aren’t as durable and don’t have good enough sticking power.
A hoof knife is a specialized knife often used by farriers to cut out extra sole and frog in the feet of the horse. There are left-handed and right-handed versions of this knife are available, so just purchase a knife that is appropriate for you. Be warned though that these knives are extremely sharp and if not used properly, it could be harmful to both you and your horse.
A nice clean and absorbent towel is another essential item for your hoof care arsenal. Once you have cleaned and brushed your horse’s hooves, use a towel to dry it thoroughly before applying any hoof hardener or other treatment.
Pick up their foot and wrap it with the towel very snugly to soak up all the moisture which will allow any subsequent treatments to be more effective.
There are other additional complementary tools which can be useful depending on circumstances but it is best to consult your farrier and veterinarian to give you pointers on which tools would be best for you and your horse.
Things To Consider Before Purchasing and Using Tools
Before handling any hoof care product, carefully read over the product label and always follow directions exactly, including how frequently the product should be used. Some products, such as hoof hardeners or thrush treatments, contain ingredients that work very successfully when used properly, but can cause complications if they are used to often or improperly.
Some products are meant to be used regularly, while other products are designed to address a specific issue and shouldn’t be used unless under those specific circumstances, such as treating for thrush.
Another thing to keep in mind before you apply any complementary hoof care products is to first start with clean, dry feet. Stand the horse in a dry area with safe footing. Clean the hooves totally, using a hoof pick and brush off any remaining dirt and debris. Finally, apply the hoof care product according to specific label directions.
Regular hoof care is a must for your horse because neglect of hooves can have dire consequences on your horse and can lead to them being sick, lame or even worse. The best way to perform hoof care are with the tools we have suggested above.
Whether you visit your local tack and supply store to obtain these products, or you decide to shop online for the supplies, you’ll find a wide variety of hoof care products available. Keep the advice in this article in mind and consider your horse’s environment, along with their overall hoof health, when choosing a product.
You should also not hesitate to involve a hoof care professional like a farrier or a veterinarian as they are the best person to give you advice on what products are necessary for your horse.
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