Winter Hoof Health for HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · January 3, 2017
With four feet instead of two, horses have somewhat less trouble getting around in the winter than their owners do. Hooves take a beating in the colder months, however, because outside horses are surrounded by mud or frozen ground, and stalled horses spend some time standing in bedding that may be soaked with urine. To keep hooves as healthy as possible, keep these tips in mind.
Pick out hooves every day and examine the hoof surfaces and the pastern area for bruises, cuts, or the beginning of skin infections. Begin treatment of any ailments promptly.
Hoof growth slows somewhat in cold weather, so cracks and other defects may not grow out as quickly during the winter months. For unshod horses, hoof walls may be left a little longer to give horses more clearance and help them avoid sole bruises as they walk on frozen mud.
Shod horses will need help with traction on snowy and icy ground. Shoes with borium patches, studs, or another nonslip configuration will give them more secure footing. Talk to your farrier about these options. Spreading sand or cat litter on paths may help both horses and humans as they make their way from barn to pasture and back.
Galloping and jumping on frozen ground increases the concussion that is normally absorbed by softer surfaces. The increased pounding can lead to hoof cracks or lameness. If you don’t have access to an unfrozen riding area, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of intense work you ask your horse to do.
Bare hooves usually shed snow naturally, staying clean with little effort. Shoes, however, tend to collect hardened snow that’s dangerous to walk on and difficult to remove. Coating the soles with cooking oil or petroleum jelly may help for a while, but the best prevention is to ask your farrier to add a springy pad or rim under the shoes. These devices compress as the horse steps down and expand as each foot is lifted, popping the snow out before it can pack tightly.
Frozen streams and ponds are slippery for hooves, and these areas are also hazardous because horses that walk out onto the ice can break through and end up immersed in cold water. If possible, turn horses out in safe areas, or fence off frozen water sources.
Horse hoof quality is dependent on balanced nutrition, and the correct building blocks need to be present in the diet to ensure healthy hoof growth. Bio•Bloom™ PS is a dual action supplement designed to facilitate good skin and coat condition, and promote healthy hoof growth from the inside out. Learn more.