The hooves are the hardest working parts of a horse as they bear his weight and that of the rider(s). So, they deserve the most attention.
A horse with an injured hoof cannot do much. That’s why you should take proper care of your horse’s hooves.
The best care you can give your horse is to clean out his hooves on a daily basis. There’s a concave cleft under each hoof. This concave cleft can pick pieces of pine, rock, or any sharp object that could hurt your horse.
Also, the horse steps on all kinds of dirt including manure. You have to wash them off too. There’s no point disposing his manure and leaving a bit of it under his hooves.
But, if you want to know more about this topic, this article discusses how you can clean your horse’s hooves.
How to clean horse hooves?
Dip each of the hooves in warm soapy water to clean off manure, mud, and all other kinds of dirt that he may have stepped on. This cleansing method also removes the germs that might’ve accumulated in them. Thereafter, pick the sole of every hoof with a pick and brush it off. Finally, you can inspect the hoof for any infection or wound. And if you find any, treat it immediately.
The step-by-step guide in cleaning horse hooves
Sit the horse down
Although it is possible to clean your horse’s hooves while he’s standing, it is safer to do it while he’s sitting down.
If any of the hooves are injured when your hand gets to the spot, he could kick you on reflex if he’s standing.
It may also be necessary to tie him down. Some people believe that it may be difficult to get a horse to sit down if he doesn’t want to.
That’s true if the horse does not trust you. But if he likes and trusts you, he’ll obey you.
Dip the first hoof into warm soapy water
Put on a pair of gloves and dip the first hoof in mild soapy water and leave the hoof inside for about a minute or two, max.
Bring it out and wash it with a sponge. After that, rinse the hoof in clean water and pat it dry.
Do the same for the remaining three hooves one after the other. That’s the first leg of the cleaning, and it’s meant to wash off dirt, manure, and unseen germs.
Raise the first roof and inspect its sole
Take the leg again and take a long look at the sole. Check for any debris or rock splinter, trapped in the cleft of the hoof. You might need to shine a flashlight on it.
If there’s a piece of stone or something else, you can remove it with a pick. Although the hoof is hard, its frog is not so hard, so you need to apply caution.
After removing the debris trapped in the hoof, you can then brush it with a hard brush. Do the same for the other three hooves one by one.
Inspect the hooves
It is not enough to clean the hooves without inspecting them for wounds and infections. The earlier you treat any infection, the better for your horse.
If the surface of any of the hooves seems bruised, it’s a sign that the hooves were cut too short. Black discharge around the frog is an indication that your horse has thrush. See a vet right away.
If your horse has an open wound, clean the wound and apply some medication. You may need to wrap up the wound and change the wrappings every day.
Should you shoe your horse’s hooves: The answer
At some point while managing a horse, you may have to take a decision on whether to shoe your horse’s hooves or leave him barefooted.
Honestly, neither decision is right or wrong because both of them have their pros and cons.
However, we’d like to inform you of the pros and cons of horseshoes and allowing them to go barefoot, and leave the decision for you to make.
Pros of horseshoes
Horseshoes protect your horse from stepping on sharp objects that could injure him or get stuck under his hooves.
They also reduce the rate of wear and tear on the hooves since they eliminate the friction between the hooves and the ground.
Horseshoes are usually coarser than the surface of horse hooves. So, they give your horse a better grip on the road, preventing a slip and fall incidence.
Correction of some medical conditions
Some medical conditions require horseshoes to correct the problem. For instance, a particular hoof may be growing abnormally. Wearing a horseshoe will correct the deformity.
Cons of horseshoes
Just like some shoes can cause pain under your sole and in your instep, badly designed horseshoes can cause pain and/or lameness for your horse too.
The nails used for the shoeing process can ultimately damage the hoof tissue or hoof wall.
Horseshoes sometimes cause additional stress on your horse’s hooves and this stress may get worse.
Pros of shoeless hooves
Better shock absorption
Without shoes, horse hooves absorb shocks better, and this reduces the chances of their tendons and joints getting injured.
Without shoes, hooves relieve the pressure from the horse’s legs better.
Better blood circulation
Several studies have shown that blood circulates around the legs of a horse better when he’s barefooted.
Cons of shoeless hooves
Lack of protection
Without shoes, the hooves of your horse will be exposed to sharp objects that could injure him.
Shoeless hooves encounter bruises much more than shoed hooves.
Now, you can weigh the pros of shoeless hooves and shoed hooves against their cons and pick one.
Of course, it is not out of place to involve a vet and farrier before you make a decision.
Always remember that it is a necessity and not an option to clean and inspect your horse’s hooves on a daily basis. Wash them before you pick out hard debris from the cleft and frog of the hooves.
After that, inspect the hooves for signs of injuries and infection.
A lame horse cannot be of much use to you. And the best way to prevent lameness is by daily cleaning and inspection of hooves.