February is International Hoof Care Month!
I think it’s a good time to remind everyone that we should be seeing our farrier all year.
If your horse is still doing his job through the colder months – in the fall for hunters, or through the winter skijoring season, ( Figure 1 ) the activity and the fact that he is wearing shoes will mean that you will need to keep up with a regular shoeing cycle. The typical recommendation is about six weeks, though some special-needs horses may need attention every four weeks.
Figure 1: Skijoring
Horses tend to grow less foot in the winter, and will therefore tolerate a longer interval between trims. If they are barefoot, they may have some natural wear on their slower-growing feet, making them even more tolerant of a gap between trims. Some horses will do fine with an eight week schedule, but stretching the time in between farrier visits is asking for trouble.
Figure 2: An overgrown, neglected foot
A good trim will help reduce flare, keep the bars of the foot maintained, and prevent the white line from stretching. The white line can stretch as the toe gets too long. Waiting longer than eight weeks can also result in an excessively long toe and an imbalanced foot. ( Figure 2 ) A long toe can make laminitis or founder more likely to occur, and worsen it if it does occur. Overgrowth also allows the heels to become underrun. ( Figure 3 )
Figure 3: Underrun heels. Arrows point to wear marks on the heel bulbs caused buy the horse bearing weight abnormally, and asphalt rubbing his heels raw.
A hoof abscess is a lot like an ingrown toenail: it’s super-painful! There is pus within the foot, between the hard capsule of the hoof wall or sole and the soft tissue that lines the outer coffin bone. Abscesses can be scary: a horse that was normal at dinner last night can be severely lame when you check him the next morning. Standing in soft, wet ground with an overgrown foot is a perfect recipe to create an abscess. The wet ground soaks the foot and softens the tissue.
Figure 4: A severely overgrown foot with underrun heels, folded over bars (red arrows), and a compromised white line (black arrows).
Then, cracks develop as the foot bears weight abnormally. If the white line (the junction between the sole and the hoof wall) is stretched or the bars are folded over or hoof cracks develop, ( Figure 4 ) that predisposes a horse to a hoof abscess.
Figure 5: A foot that had to have a large amount of sole removed (arrows) to relieve a subsolar abscess.
Hoof abscesses are treated with soaking until the pus can drain. Sometimes, we have to remove abnormal sole tissue that has the abscess underneath. ( Figure 5 ) The best way to cure an abscess, though is to prevent it with regular trimming!
By Stacie G. Boswell, DVM, DACVS
You can find more helpful hoof care info from EQUUS by clicking HERE