Winter is hard on everyone. Cold, wet, ground one day, frozen solid mud the next. Snow the next day – then back to mud. And if you’re really lucky – all this in one day!
Let’s be honest – there are days when we are cold, wet, tired and hungry. Everything takes so much longer.
And much as we love our horses and ponies, we just want to get home, defrost, and have something to eat.
Winter takes its toll on our horses’ feet, especially when they are stabled. The constant changes from wet to dry can play havoc with the structure of the hoof wall. They also grow hoof horn differently in winter to summer.
Think of your horse’s hoof like leather. Leather that isn’t cared for properly gets dry, brittle and cracks. And then no matter how much you cover it in neatsfoot oil – the cracks will still be there. It also doesn’t bend and flex like it should do.
A horse’s foot needs to bend and flex to function properly – although on a much smaller scale than bending a bit of leather!
Here are some tips to keep your horses feet in tip top condition
1: Pick feet out daily (before and after turnout if possible) using the side of the hoof pick is a great, easy way to scrape off chunks of mud off the hoof wall (just watch the coronet, as they will be really soft)
2: Your horse’s feet may grow slower in winter compared to summer, but don’t leave it too long between trims. Feet that start to get a little long may spread and flare making the hoof wall weaker, and may increase the risk of an abscess.
3: Frozen ground can affect thin soled feet, (think TBS!) and cause bruising. It might not be practical to change turnout times to avoid solid ground, but it’s something to bear in mind if you are working your horse, or turning out.
4: Keep your horse’s bedding as clean as is practical – dirty bedding can cause problems such as thrush – which weakens the hoof horn (and stinks) Once it’s taken hold, it can be a pain to get rid of – involving additional time and expense. The warmth and wetness of a dirty bed causes the bacteria to grow.
5:If you are in any doubt, consider discussing your concerns with your farrier. They are often the best person to advise you what to do with your horses feet. After all, its what they do all day!
6: Don’t skip the hoof oil. Whilst not always practical for many horse owners, I add my Silverfeet Hoof Oil to my horses hooves in a morning when I feed them. This gives them about half an hour stood in their stable for the hoof oil to absorb.
7:If your horse has poor horn growth – look at supplementing your horse’s diet with a hoof supplement such as Lincoln Biotin. This works best when your horse is already on a balanced diet, as it provides additional biotin which your horse may be lacking.
If your horse doesn’t need a feed through the winter – or is a little fuzzy about what you try and add to their feed – consider Lincoln Biotin Tablets, as they offer a bit sized, peppermint ‘treat’. This measured dose also means you are giving a consistent amount every day.
Most importantly, when trying to improve hoof growth, and quality – be patient – it can take 6-9 months to grow a whole new foot from coronet to ground. Longer with slow growth horses like tbs . Improvements start at the top of the foot, so it really can take a long time to see improvements.