Are you and your equine friends adjusting to a new routine in lockdown? We speak to NAF Equine’s Kate Hore RNutr (Animal), about hoof health in this unprecedented time.
With the range of current challenges we are experiencing with our horses and ponies we must ensure we do not overlook their hooves. Hooves are an incredible structure, especially when you consider that it’s just these four small areas of your horse or pony which manage to absorb concussion and weight bear, to protect and carry the vast structures that lie within and above.
Over the course of the Winter period hooves have had to endure extreme conditions of cold and wet, which put a lot of stress onto hoof horn as they impact the moisture content of the hoof and potentially weaken the structure. Now, as we are enjoying a change in weather to some sunshine and dry conditions, the moisture content evaporates fast and we must take care to address this. While this ‘extreme drying’ period of weather happens in most years, 2020 is particularly high risk due to:
- COVID-19 measures, which may have resulted in increased turnout or new routines, or changed plans for a field move
- The wet Winter we have just experienced, which means most horses will have spent long periods standing in wet over the colder months
- Water molecules can force their way into horn making it expand and weakening the overall structure
- Weaker structural integrity can be more susceptible to damage; hoof is more pliable
- Horn swells – the appearance can hide cracks and defects which can be falsely interpreted as healthy hooves
- Horn is at its strongest at around 25% moisture content
- Hooves drying out after a wet spell can lead to extensive cracking and brittle horn
- Increased farriery visits
- Oils are not recommended; they do not let the hoof ‘breathe’
- A moisturiser can help to nourish the horn while allowing the hoof to breathe
- Apply regularly to help replenish moisture content
- Ensure horse/pony has fresh and adequate water supply – dehydration can impact dry hooves further
- Do not ‘soak’ hooves in water, this can jeopardise the integrity of the horn and when hooves dry further cracking can occur
- Nourished hooves from the inside out, without the correct supply of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients the horse/pony may be under-nourished and may not be able to cater for their own hoof health. Look for a quality supplement with the right levels of proteins, nutrients and antioxidants capable of feeding healthy hooves.
Wet weather is harmful to hooves which will weaken the integrity of the structure, when we turn to dry weather, this can lead to extreme drying and further endanger hoof health. Given the challenges 2020 has thrown at us we must be mindful to support our hooves throughout these environmental and modern influences.