Hoof care: This is how horses hooves stay healthy

What exactly does a horse’s hoof actually do and how important is the hoof for the horse’s health? Read on!

Horse hooves are much more than just a horn structure. Your horse’s hoof is like a shoe that grows back. But what exactly does a horse’s hoof actually do and how important is it for the horse’s health? In this magazine article you will find a lot of information and tips about the care, function and role of the horse’s hoof. We are sure: The more you know about the “second heart” of the horse, the healthier and longer your horse will carry you through life!

Why do horses have hooves at all? The original horse, the Hyracotherium, actually had no hooves . It had toes and actually looked more like a dog. In the course of evolution, horses became bigger and heavier and their feet had to carry more and more weight. The horse’s middle toe evolved over millions of years into a single “horny toe” – the hoof. And as is so often the case, the evolution was pretty clever here too.

Hooves stabilize the horse’s gait The hooves keep the horse stable – even on uneven ground. However, one should not think that the hard sole is insensitive – quite the opposite. Some nerves go from the hoof into the horse’s leg.

The nerves process the underground impulses directly. The “sense of touch” in the hoof ensures that tendons, joints and ligaments stabilize as soon as bumps appear on the ground. This is essential because it prevents twisting and tripping.

Hooves are ideal shock absorbers for your horse Although your horse’s hooves appear hard and rigid at first glance, they are actually not. They work much more like shock absorbers. With each stepping up and down, the horse’s hoof is slightly deformed so that the impact on the ground is cushioned. This protects the joints of the horse. The hoof widens when it hits the ground, and contracts and narrows when it takes off.

The influence of age, breed and co. How fast a horse’s hooves grow depends on its age. The hooves of foals and yearlings grow the fastest – whopping 154 until 15 millimeters per month. The hooves of adult horses, on the other hand, only grow half as fast. Breed also plays a role in hoof growth. Arabians, for example, have significantly stronger, denser and harder hooves than other breeds. Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, tend to have brittle horns. But of course it is difficult to make general statements here. The respective horn development is individual for each horse.

Tips for the right hoof care Hoofs grow faster – with one horse , the other less quickly. That depends on various factors. If a horse is ridden a lot, the hooves grow more because they are well supplied with blood. At the same time, of course, they wear out quickly – provided the horse runs on hard ground. Age, posture and hoof care also play a crucial role when it comes to hoof growth. For example, shod hooves grow less quickly than barefoot hooves. Nevertheless: A healthy hoof is happy about the “free run”. It doesn’t matter whether they are shod or not: To keep your horse’s hooves fit and healthy at all times, you should always pay attention to proper hoof care.

Check hooves – every day! Check everyone Tag your horse’s hooves. Look at them before and after riding – if necessary scratch them out before riding so that your horse can perform well. Nothing is nastier than small stones or other foreign objects stuck in small hoof grooves. Bedding and manure should also be removed before the ride, otherwise bacteria may find their way into the hoof. These can trigger thrush. Thrush not only causes a penetrating stench, but in the worst case also causes nasty pain and inflammation that can even be life-threatening. After the ride it’s time to care for the hoof, i.e. scrape it out and clean it very thoroughly before it goes back into the box.

Hoof care: wash and grease After riding and first For every horse owner, scratching means washing the hooves and ideally greasing them. To do this, you thoroughly clean your horse’s legs and hooves with water and a special brush. When the hooves are dry, the coronet edges are greased. This is where the new horn forms, so the coronet needs a lot of care. Especially in winter it is also advisable to give the entire hoof special care, such as hoof ointment or hoof oil, to prevent cracks and the penetration of road salt. Quality plays a major role, especially when it comes to care products. For the sake of your horse, unnecessary additives should be avoided if possible.

Trim and rasp hooves correctly When horses run without shoes, the hoof can break or form sharp edges. These should then be smoothed out with a rasp. Inexperienced riders and horse owners in particular should visit the blacksmith regularly, about every six to eight weeks – even if the horse is barefoot. He examines the hooves closely, trims them and checks the position of the horse. If the hooves have worn out excessively, it may also be useful to temporarily attach horseshoes to prevent lameness and injury.

The right nutrition for healthy hooves In addition to care, also plays with yours For horses, as for us humans, nutrition plays a not insignificant role in relation to health and therefore to the hoof. In addition to the right hoof care, horses’ hooves also need various nutrients such as zinc, biotin and vitamin A. But proteins – correctly dosed – are also an important source of energy. With a balanced diet, there is no need to add a special remedy for the hooves. Often, and especially with sport horses, there are deficiency symptoms and thus also hoof problems. A protein deficiency can quickly have a negative effect on the horn of the hoof and leads to slower growth.

Calcium and biotin for strong horse bones – and healthy hooves! Just like for bones, muscles and teeth, calcium is also essential for hoof growth. High levels of phosphorus and low levels of calcium in the forage can lead to calcium deficiency, leading to weak and brittle hooves. Biotin is an important building block in a balanced horse diet. If biotin is missing, hooves grow back very slowly and less healthily. It can therefore make sense to give the vitamin as a supplement.

Healthy horse hooves thanks to zinc and essential fatty acids Zinc is the trace element when it comes to growth and healing of skin and horn. It works best in a compound with copper. Zinc deficiency usually occurs after an illness. If your horse has had diarrhea or even kidney problems for a while, it can make sense to feed it zinc in addition to prevent hoof diseases. The periopole, the permeable outside of your horse’s hoof, is particularly happy about essential fatty acids. This prevents the hooves from drying out. Since the horse’s organism cannot synthesize linoleic and alpha-linolenic fatty acids on its own, these should be fed with the help of supplements on a permanent basis or as a cure.

The three most common hoof diseases Unfortunately, in horse keeping, despite proper hoof care, it happens again and again that a horse injures its hooves and develops diseases. So that you know exactly which symptoms could indicate which disease, here are the most common hoof diseases. The following applies to everyone: It is better to inform the veterinarian and farrier too soon than too late!

Thrush Thrush is a bacterial infection of the frog. Here putrefactive bacteria settle in the ray horn and decompose it. Thrush is mainly caused by a lack of stable and hoof care. An unclean, too damp, too warm barn ensures a rich bacterial proliferation. Horses that stand in the mud for too long also tend to develop nasty thrush. You can recognize the disease mainly by the stench it causes. The beam turns into a dark, greasy mass. The treatment of thrush is mainly carried out by your farrier. This removes the rotten horn from the hoof. After that, the hoof is treated daily with disinfecting pads. Your horse should be particularly dry and clean during this time and receive additional hoof care.

Hoof ulcer Hoof ulcers are common causes of lameness in horses. Here, a purulent inflammation develops between the sole or wall horn and the corium of the hoof. Such an ulcer can be caused by stones or standing in mud for a long time. External influences are not always the cause. Also pathogens that z. B. penetrate into the hoof through a horn capsule damage, like to cause painful abscesses. A hoof ulcer is characterized by sudden lameness and warmth and pulsation. Now it’s time to contact the vet quickly. This checks whether there is actually a hoof ulcer, opens the pus focus and provides the hoof with a hoof bandage. And then? hoof care! Disinfect daily.

Horn cracks and horn columns Horn cracks are longitudinal cracks in the hoof and are one of the most common hoof diseases. They go from the supporting or the coronet along the hoof. Missing or incorrect fittings are often the cause of the cracks. However, they can also be caused by excessive stress or a generally poor horn quality of the hoof. The bad news: once the horn is split, it doesn’t grow back together. To find the best therapy, the horse’s hoof is x-rayed. This allows the vet to determine the depth of the tear. He then cuts out the hoof at this point, stabilizes it and rests until the gap grows out. Horn columns are unfortunately a frequent consequence of horn columns. It is a wall horn bulge that develops inside the hoof. However, hoof abscesses or crown kicks can also favor horn columns. Horn columns are usually treated surgically to make room for healthy horn. The damaged dermis and part of the bone are often removed as well. The hoof is then relieved with a shoe and additional hoof care is applied.

Horseshoe – yes or no?

Many riders ask themselves: Should I have my horse shod or Snowflake would rather stay barefoot ? Healthy hooves can do without shoes – that much is certain. Whether the hoof needs to be shod with shoes depends on various factors. Certain diseases make shoeing necessary. If you think your horse may need shoeing, talk to your veterinarian. He will probably suggest various options to you, it doesn’t always have to be the iron directly. A temporary hoof shoe is often enough to get temporary pain under control quickly.

When is a horseshoe useful? Especially horses that are used in equestrian sports inevitably need horseshoes. Show jumping, eventing, driving sports – here the hoof load is particularly immense. The horn of the hooves would be worn out far too quickly and could not grow back that quickly. So bad inflammation and lameness would not be long in coming. In show jumping there are horseshoes that can also be equipped with studs. So the horse is perfectly equipped depending on the ground conditions. A good shoe can correct misalignments more easily than one treatment of the natural hoof horn. The latter also expires much faster than the iron. Horseshoes are therefore ideal for relieving tendons and ligaments. The type of fitting then also influences the type of rolling. In this way, injuries can be spared or even avoided.

Disadvantages of horseshoes A crucial risk: The probability of an injury is unfortunately higher with horseshoes than without. In many stables where animals are kept in groups, horseshoes are prohibited. The injuries that occur when escaping towards conspecifics are often severe with horseshoes. The costs shouldn’t be underestimated either: every six to eight weeks the horse’s hooves have to be re-shod – that’s quite expensive. Between and 150 Euros per visit to the farrier are perfectly normal. Most of the time, however, there is no getting around it, because many horses find hard and uneven surfaces painful.

Horseshoes bring luck – right? At least that’s what people used to think. People didn’t know that there are no nerves in the top horny layer of the hoof, so attaching the hoof doesn’t cause them pain. So it was assumed that there must be something magical about horseshoes. At the same time, iron was an extremely valuable material – if you found a horseshoe, it was doubly lucky. The horseshoe was said to ward off disease and misfortune from the owner’s home and family. That is why horseshoes hang above the front doors to this day. A second saga is based on the story that Saint Dunstan painfully shoed the devil’s feet and only stopped when the devil swore to spare the people who possessed horseshoes from misfortune.

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