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    Healthy Hooves | Winter 2013 Out Here Magazine

    Beware of problems and treat them quickly

    Laminitis may require special shoes, called heart bars, to keep pressure off sore parts of the hoof.
    Out Here

    By Mary Boyce, DVM

    Photography by iStock

    Taking care of your horse’s feet and hooves is vital not only for the long-term soundness of their feet, but also for the overall health of your horse. As the old saying goes, “No hooves, no horse.”

    Keep your eye out for these common hoof problems so you can treat them quickly and effectively.

    • Irregular and/or poor shoeing or trimming. In summer, horses should be trimmed or shod at least every six to eight weeks, depending on each horse and the amount of hoof they grow. Because hooves generally grow more slowly in the winter, horses should be trimmed every six to 12 weeks.

    Correct shoeing balances a hoof, allowing the horse to move better, and puts less stress and strain on bones, tendons, and ligaments. Incorrect shoeing can create imbalance, with such problems as long toes, which can result in collapsed heels and strain on flexor tendons and the navicular bone. If the horse is too upright from incorrect shoes, it can cause trauma to the coffin bone and joint.

    • Hoof cracks. Horizontal cracks or blowouts are usually caused by an injury to the coronary band or a blow to the hoof wall. Grass cracks are usually seen in long, unshod horses, and can be corrected with trimming and shoeing.

    Sand cracks result from injury to the coronary band or white line disease that breaks out at the coronary band. Treatment for sand cracks includes determining the cause and removing it, floating the hoof wall (not letting it bear weight), and/or fixing or patching the crack. It usually takes nine to 12 months for the hoof to grow out.

    Keeping stalls or barns clean and dry can help eliminate thrush.

    • Thrush. Thrush is a foul-smelling black substance usually found around the frog that is associated with wet, soiled conditions. Thrush can invade sensitive tissue and cause lameness. Keeping stalls or barns clean and dry can help eliminate thrush.

    • Solar abscess. This infection in the sole of the hoof, which can be caused by trauma, bruising, or a foreign body, can lead to acute or severe lameness. Treatments include removal of the foreign body, if possible, soaking the hoof in warm water and Epsom salt, and keeping the hoof bandaged, clean, and dry.

    • Hot nail or street nail. A hot nail is a horseshoe nail that is driven into the sensitive structures of the hoof wall and will usually cause lameness. Treatments include flushing the nail hole with antiseptic, packing the hole or bandaging the foot, and administering a Tetanus booster.

    A street nail is any foreign object that enters the foot. This is an emergency, and your veterinarian should be called immediately. Treatment depends on which hoof structure is affected.

    • Laminitis. Laminitis, also called founder, is inflammation of the sensitive laminae and can be caused by any number of reasons, including injury. Treatments include regular shoeing or trimming, maintaining short toes, and frog and sole support.

    Because most horses have different hoof issues and growth, a good working relationship with your farrier and veterinarian is vital to ensure a healthy, sound hoof and horse.

    To reduce hoof problems, follow these recommendations:

    • Regular trimming or shoeing.
    • Maintain good hoof balance.
    • Appropriate shoeing for various weather and footing conditions.
    • Appropriate treatment if disease process occurs.
    • Maintain healthy nutrition.

    Mary Boyce, DVM, is with the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota.

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