Hoof Care Between Farrier Visits
The health of your horse’s hooves is up to you on a day-to-day basis to keep your farrier’s work in top shape! There’s daily care to execute, and there are also big picture things to consider and track.
The day to day hoof care between farrier visits:
- You will never know if something isn’t normal if you don’t know what that normal is. Memorize those hooves!
Bust out the hoof pick.
- Picking your horse’s hooves should happen multiple times a day. Can you pick hooves too frequently? I doubt it.
Hanging hoof picks ALL OVER THE LAND is a great way to always have one handy.
- These little alarms of the hoof are the leg’s way of telling you that something is going on inside the hoof. It only takes a few seconds to check your horse’s digital pulses on the fetlock. Directions are here, and there’s a video below, too. Don’t be alarmed if you can barely feel anything. Be alarmed if you can feel something and it’s stronger than the day before.
- A strong digital pulse is one of the signs of laminitis. It’s also a sign of an abscess. Both are extremely painful, and laminitis can be deadly. If your horse’s pulses are going nuts, please call your vet.
This video shows you how the digital artery “works” to check your horse’s hoof health.
This video shows you how to measure the digital pulse.
Feeling for warmth.
- This is a perfect example of doing a thing, and then zooming out a bit. Hot hooves are also a sign that something is amiss inside the hoof. It’s also a sign that your horse has been standing in the sun. Checking for hoof warmth is just part of the routine, and only one part of the puzzle.
- Does the shoe wiggle, have the clenches loosened, is a nail loose or missing? It’s easy to quickly tighten a loose clench, and it’s easy to pull a loose nail. You may need to pull the whole thing if your horse has decided to partially lift or twist it off. Step by step instructions on that here. Just one more reason to have some farrier tools handy!
Look for cracks
- The hoof wall is a dynamic structure and can develop cracks. This may just be how things are, and it’s normal. Or, it could be a sign of white line disease or other problems. Some cracks grow from the coronary band and can affect soundness. There are vertical cracks, and even horizontal cracks to note and follow.
Inspect the coronary band.
- I prefer to keep a horse’s coronary band clipped so that I can better see what’s going on. And, it’s easier to spot those blasted ticks in shorter hair. The coronary band is the origin of the hoof, and even the smallest nick or cut can have large consequences with how the hoof grows. Abscesses can pop out of the coronary band, it’s a delightful location for your horse to go nutso with proud flesh, and permanent damage can happen. More on the coronary band here!
Use your nose!
- Once you have smelled thrush, you will never forget it! This anaerobic bacterial infection of the hoof loves to stink up the place. Early infections are usually caught with your nose, long before you notice anything going on.
How’s your horse’s environment?
- Clean bedding, clean paddocks, a non-muddy place for your horse to hang out will only help his hoof health. There’s only so much we can do about the wet-dry cycle, but he should have mostly “clean” areas to rest, stand, and eat.
- Your horse also needs the space to move! This keeps the blood pumping up his legs and through his hooves. His brain will enjoy it, too!
It’s very handy to know how to pull a horseshoe.
Bigger picture things to keep in mind between farrier visits.
Footing and surfaces that you ride on.
- The hoof and legs take a lot of pounding as you ride! The hooves are also subject to the abrasive effects of the surfaces and ground you ride on. Sand, rocks, and stone dust can wear down hooves. Smaller particles can get wedged into the white line and cracks, and larger stones can get squished in the grooves. For more on footing issues, this gem of an article has you hooked up.
What you feel when you are riding.
- Some horses forge, interfere, and trip when their farrier cycle is not optimized. These are also signs the balance in your horse’s hoof may need some improvement. More on how and why horses do this can be found here.
Pulling a shoe without these tools is INFINITELY harder and more likely to end in cussing and a damaged hoof.
Over time, notice wear patterns on hoof walls and shoes. Get x-rays to get the full picture!
- Not much speaks more about a horse’s leg and hoof health as how he uses them. Take note of wear patterns, and work with your farrier and vet to determine if the balance needs adjustment. Having a balance series of x-ray films to check the internal structures is always a good idea. These films are affordable, and only help your farrier do his best work for your horse.
Don’t drag out the time between farrier visits to save a few bucks. This makes the hoof go from ideal to long then have a harsh transition back to ideal. If the schedule is more appropriately short, your horse goes from ideal to grown out and will not have a harsh transition back to ideal. Everything is kept close to center when the farrier comes at ideal times.
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This gel is SUPER for white line and other hoof crack problems.
This clincher will tighten up any wiggling nails.
For thrush and other hoof problems.
Nippers for cutting clenches and pulling shoes.
Crease nail pullers so that you can safely pull a nail out, after the clench is cut.
This is another way to cut clenches, if you have a mallet.