Typically I write these blogs because a subject is brought to my attention by a friend or past client. I help them then come on here and share what I told them with you all. If one person is asking it, five are thinking it.
Last week I had a friend and past training assistant ask me for advice on hoof care. She recently acquired a mare who has poor growth in her feet, cracks and waves. She also needs to have shoes on her front feet. She knows the drill and accompanied a pic along with her question and asked for advice on the best way to grow a foot and reach proper hoof health. Her mare is a trail horse and she wants her to have a harder, healthier foot.
Any good farrier will tell you “no hoof, no horse!” And that is 100% accurate! Take proper care of the horse’s foot and learn to read it and you can help give the horse what it specifically needs.
Ok, so you’re wondering how the heck can you “read a foot” well, it’s very simple. All you need to do is make sure the hoof is clean and no mud is on the foot visibly as it’s standing. We read the outside of the hoof. If you look at a horse’s hoof you’ll see waves. Cracks horizontally, cracks perpendicular. In the photo I have provided you’ll see all these signs. First, the waves, the waves show stress or strain in the horse’s past. The hoof grows from the cornet band down. If your horse has waves it’s not able to be fixed now, they will grow out, but you can be aware of the horses strain in its past and make a change now for the future hoof. Stress can be caused by many factors. Change in environment, trauma (mental or physical), change in feed, intense training or neglect. It takes roughly 7 months to a year for a hoof to make a complete cycle from cornet band down to toe. Each horse is different obviously. This is a ballpark. But these waves will not hurt the horse. If the horse foundered the waves will not be small like these, they will be large, warped and those are reason for worry and immediately call your vet for X-rays.
Next is the horizontal crack you’ll see in the photo provided. That’s an abscess blow out from the horse’s past. If you think how long it takes the horse to grow it’s foot from top to bottom, this specific horse had an abscess roughly two months ago depending on how fast she grows her foot. this crack is nothing to worry about but your farrier can “score” it to make sure it doesn’t crack further.
And lastly the perpendicular cracks are commonly confused with serious cracks called “quarter cracks”. These small cracks you see in the photo are completely normal. The horse’s hoof is made of condensed hair. When the weather changes and the horse’s environment goes from wet to dry, the horse’s hoof expands and contracts to accommodate climate change. These are superficial cracks. They can be treated with mineral oil or hoof dressing if you’re too concerned. These cracks are nothing to worry about. “Quarter cracks” are cracks that are deep and go from the cornet band down to the toe and can cause a major weakness in the foot and a good cause for worry. Contact your farrier ASAP or your vet. Most of these are caused by a damaged part of the cornet band that no longer grows hoof which causes the horse to need shoes to keep the hoof together and hopefully prevent further damage.
The advice I gave my friend was to feed her horse hoof supplements to strengthen the hoof over time. Also I’ve used powdered jello to do the same thing for a horse I was rehabbing from navicular and it worked! Keep in mind certain supplements will work for some horse’s and not others. I also suggested she apply mineral oil to her horse’s hooves for the superficial cracks and to keep shoes on her horse until the hoof is noticeably thicker. Her farrier can tell her when the horse’s thin hoof has fully grown out.
Proper nutrition, managing stress and keeping the horse comfortable will all help the overall health of the horse’s hooves in the future. also keep your horse on a regular schedule with your farrier and they will help you further read the changes in the hoof in more detail as it pertains to your horse.