Hooves, Shoes and Shoeing
Horses hooves play a very important role in the soundness, conformation and way of going of the horse. Correct hoof management of both the shod and unshod horse require the specialist skills of a qualified farrier.
The hooves of horses are are made up of:
- Hoof Wall,
- Coronary Band,
- Short Pastern,
- Pedal Bone,
- Navicular Bone,
- Sensitive Lamanae,
- Digital Cushion,
- White Line,
- Tendons and Ligaments.
Every part of the horses hoof is vulnerable, and the correct daily care of the hoof along with foot balance, and nutrition, will help to keep your horse sound and free from injury.
More About The Hoof And Lower Leg Structure
To help maintain your horses hooves in the best condition take the following into consideration:
- Diet - A horse who has a well balanced diet is less likely to be lacking in any nutrients and is therefore more likely to have healthy hoof growth.
- Exercise - The type of surface that you ride on can have a significant impact on your horses hoof wall, sandy and stony surfaces are more likely to cause drying out of the hoof wall and cracking of the surface.
- Conditions - If the hoof wall is getting wet several times throughout the day and then drying out, then this can affect the moisture content of the hoof wall.
- Conformation - Weak conformation can cause the hoof to be unbalanced putting more strain either onto to hoof or onto other areas of the horses lower limb structure. For example in some cases the horses action may benefit from having the toes rolled to improve the horses break over point.
- Farrier - Have a qualified farrier regularly check your horses hooves every 4 to six weeks and treat as required.
Daily Care Of Hooves
Horses require daily hoof care in order to check them for stones, bruising or puncture wounds, infection and for any damage to the hoof wall, shoes and+ for general soundness.
Every day your horses feet should be:
- Picked Out - Use a hoof pick to remove any built up dirt and stones from the underside of the hoof. Use a hoof brush after hoof picking to brush the sole of the foot and frog area.
- Checked - Once the hoof has been hoof picked and brushed out it is easy to check for any injuries such as puncture wounds that may have occurred either when in the field or out hacking or bruising to the sole area.
- Heels checked - The horses heels should be checked for any injuries such as cuts, mud fever, bruises and over reaches.
- Hoof wall - The horses hoof wall should be felt for heat as this can be an indication of an ailment such as an infection or laminitis.
- Any cracks on the hoof wall will need to carefully monitored and the moisture content maintained. Horses who are heavily worked on sandy surfaces can be prone to cracks appearing on the hoof wall, The application of some hoof products and supplements can be of great benefit in maintaining a healthy hoof wall.
Daily Care Of Hooves Continued
- Hoof Growth - The horses hoof growth needs to be monitored and any uneven wear noted and discussed with the farrier.
- Shoes checked- Horses can loose a shoe either when in the field or when being exercised, check that the horses shoes are not only all still on but that they have also not slipped out of position. If your horse does lose a shoe ensure that no nails have penetrated the sole of the foot and where possible retrieve the shoe so that another horse does not become injured by standing on it.
- Clenches checked - The clenches are the part of the nail which have already been passed through the shoe and wall of the horses hoof and are folded back and made flush with the outside of the hoof wall. When the horse is due for shoeing or if the shoe is becoming loose, the clenches will begin to stick up and can be clearly felt when you run your hand around the hoof wall.
- Shoe becoming loose - If the horses shoe is lifting away from the wall of the horses foot then it is becoming loose, when the horse walks along a road surface you will often be able to hear it 'clink' as the horse walks along.
- The frog also needs to be monitored for signs of infection such as Thrush.
- If studs are to be used then clean out the stud holes and repack them ready for use. After use remove the studs and pack the stud holes with cotton wool, then clean and pack away the studs so that they are ready for their next use.
A well balanced hoof will have the same angles as that of the Coffin bone within the hoof capsule. The two main angles to look for are the Hairline and Toe Angles.
- The Hairline Angle - This should measure 30 degrees in both the front and hind hooves. The angle is measured from the point where the lateral cartilage dips down at the heel to the central part of the front hairline.
- Hoof Pastern Axis (Toe angles) - This is where an imaginary line can be drawn parallel with both the hoof wall and pastern. A correct hoof pastern axis will create an angle in the front hoof of 45 degrees and in the hindlimb the hoof angle should be 55 degrees. If the toe has grown long and the heel has grown forward then the term broken back hoof pastern axis will apply. A broken forward hoof pastern axis is where the hoof wall is at a higher angle to that of the pastern.
- Broken back hoof pastern axis - This can cause tendon strain, bruising, chronic heel pain, coffin joint inflammation, quarter and heel cracks and in some cases can lead towards navicular syndrome.
- One of the first things to do to correct a broken back hoof pastern axis is to back up the toe to realign it with the pastern. The shoe will also need to be extended beyond the heels to increase the ground surface area.
- Broken forward hoof pastern axis - This can cause excessive strain to the tendons and ligaments.
- To correct a broken forward hoof pastern axis the heels are often lowered by tapering the heel forward.
- As a guide when viewed from the front the hoof should be fairly symmetrical when viewed from both the front and rear.
- Both of the heels should be the same height.
- And the hoof should be roughly as wide as it is long.
Have a qualified farrier regularly visit your horse, this can be anything from 4 to 6 weeks.
- Hoof Oil/Grease - The use of hoof oil or hoof grease can help to maintain an even moisture balance and reduce the risk of cracking from occurring. Hoof oil also leaves the hooves with a very smart finish.
- Hoof Supplements - There are many supplements available that can help to improve the hoof wall. The most common ingredients are Biotin, Methionine, Lysine, Minerals & MSM. Whichever product you choose consult your farrier first and carefully follow the manufacturers guidelines.