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Are Your Horse’s Hooves Drowning?


2019/09/05



By Link Casey, Certified Master Farrier & Educator

Farriers have been seeing a lot of hoof problems and lost shoes due to the wet weather we have been having this spring and summer in the mid south.

Horse owners often think that losing a shoe or having a rotten foot is the farrier’s fault. There are some things that the farrier might miss to cause these things to happen, but with good farrier work, it comes down to the responsibility of the horse owner to maintain the condition of the horse’s feet between the farrier’s visits.

The environment
In many parts of the country this year, there has been an abundance of rain and moisture. What this translates into is that the hoof absorbs the moisture and will swell like a sponge. With the swelling, the hoof expands more than normal. Since the foot is expanding more due to the moisture, the clinches move outward with the foot. Then when the foot dries the hoof condenses down to the original size, but the clinches do not move back in with the foot. This, in turn, causes the clinches to have a popped-up appearance.  Once the clinches become loose, this means that the shoe is now loose and will shift on the foot. As the shoe continues to move on the foot, the clinches continue to become looser and the shoe will eventually fall off. This is never ending day in and day out occurrence.

With more exposure to moisture, not only does it swell the foot and pop up the clinches, it spreads the most common bacteria in horses’ hooves, known as thrush.  As the thrush becomes worse, this also causes the hoof walls to become weaker and causes shoes to fall off. They are simply not strong enough to hold nails. With thrush, the bottom (sole) of the foot becomes rotten with black thrush around the white line and nail placement areas.

Here’s how the horse owner can help regulate the environment that the horse stays in.  When it’s wet outside, keep your horse inside. When it’s dry outside, your horse can remain outside. Even if your horse does not stay outside all the time, the clinches may still be popped up and the horse is losing shoes. This is due to the 10-12 hours of standing in dewy-wet grass overnight. If your horse is constantly standing in wetness, the hoof will swell and the clinches will pop up.
Bathing a horse often also provides too much moisture in the hooves.

If the standing is in tall grass, allowing the hair to remain wet, then “scratches” will sometimes show on the back of the pastern, which is the scabby and scaly mess you see. If you notice a fungus and scabs above the hoof hairline, it could be scratches, due to constant wetness. Cleaning out the hooves more often with a hoof pick and a simple wire brush will help greatly between farrier visits.

So, if your farrier has been having an unusual problem keeping shoes on your horses, do them a favor and regulate the time your horse stands in moisture of any kind. That being said, you also don’t want the hooves too dry. It is best to consult your farrier in order to determine a good moisture balance for your horse. They see more hooves in a day than any other equine professional. Work with your farrier and try to make your horse’s hooves the best they can be.

After all …“A Happy Horse = A Happy Owner!”

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