Hoof Health and Your Farrier

If your horse has ever had issues with his or her feet, the old adage, ‘no hoof, no horse’ could not ring truer.  When considering hoof health, multiple factors influence the state of your horse’s feet including nutrition, conformation, environment, use and overall management and care. 

One of the keys to success of healthy feet is your farrier.  He or she plays a critical role in the maintenance and ongoing assessment, treatment and wellness of your horse.  When selecting a farrier to work with you and your horse, there is more than just price to consider.  Here are some questions to ask to learn more:

  1. What schooling or certification have they received?
  2. If new to the industry, have they completed an apprenticeship?  Is the Master known for doing good work?  Ask around your barn, veterinarian, tack or feed store to learn more. 
  3. Have they worked with a veterinarian?  Are they willing to work with a veterinarian? 
  4. Are they a member of a professional organization such as the American Farrier’s Association?
  5. What do their current or former clients have to say about them?  Check references.
Rasping hind foot

Deb, my farrier, rasps Ferris's left hind foot after a trim.

Consult with your farrier on the appropriate frequency for trimming.  For example, I live in a Northern climate, where hoof growth is slower in winter months and faster in summer months.  My farrier trims my horses every 4-5 weeks in the summer and 6-8 weeks in the winter.  

The genetics of your horse have a significant impact on the management program.   Some horses are blessed with good heels, strong walls and naturally cupping soles.  Others may have issues with low slung heels, flares or misshapen soles.  Such feet may require more frequent or special trimming methods and in some cases, shoes may be required to maintain soundess.  Refer to your farrier and vetrinarian to determine if this solution is best for your horse.

Be sure you are regularly picking out your horse’s feet with a hoof pick between farrier visits.  One of the best times to do this is grooming before and after work.  Check for rocks, bruises and signs of concern, such as white line disease or thrush.  The frequent time spent observing  can help you understand the overall health of his feet.   In partnership with your farrier, your efforts toward regular care of his feet will go a long way toward soundess for years to come.

4 thoughts on “Hoof Health and Your Farrier

  1. Please do not push the genetic thing…….90% of the horses out there have all the tools (genetics) to create a beautiful sound hoof. Half of the issue is the trim, no more than 5-6 weeks between trims, balanced (meaning….coffin bone is kept at a 3-3.5 degree angle) and flares, bars, toes kept in check. The other half is up to the owner, diet (FORAGE based, use grain only to supplement, proper minerals) and environment (standing in a stall for 12-14 hrs a day is the fastest way to poor feet…combined with rubber matts, sand/soft arenas and turnout in mud/grass). You want sound feet, pull sugar out of the diet (ie: molasses and highly processed grains) and get them moving (24/7). Add gravel to doorways, watering areas, gates, loafing sheds and your horse will be 10x more likely to have sound hooves. Horses were born without shoes, so be sceptical when someone says he has to have them…….they grow an entire new hoof capsule up to 2x a year…….they do amazingly well with what God gave them.

    • Heidi, thanks so much for the comments. You are correct, many horses would do much better with free turnout and more exercise. Unfortunately, in today’s world, many folks don’t have the ability to give thier horses that turnout time. Also, balanced nutrition, based on what the horse is doing, is very important component of healthy hoof growth along with exercise and good overall care. Deficiencies of key minerals, vitamins or amino acids can have a negative impact on hoof quality. Excesses of nutrients (selenium is one example) or excess per-meal levels of starch and sugar can also have a negative impact on hoof health. Horses in the wild that did not have good feet did not survive. We ask our domestic friends to do many things that are different from wild horses. Domestic horses do indeed require our best management to help them adjust to the conditions that we put them in to have long and healthy life times.

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