Hoof care in winter:
Love them or think they’re a chore, winter is here and it brings a multitude of problems for horse owners. We have already discussed the dangers of over rugging and mud fever, so now we’ll take a quick look at maintaining those all-important hooves.
To shoe or not to shoe…
Ultimately it’s up to you and your farrier whether you shoe your horse in the winter months or not. Various factors such as work load, health and location will all come into play. But there has to be something said for removing shoes for a few months over the winter. Many farriers agree that having a break from shoes can be beneficial for the horses and their hoof health. They have better grip on icy roads and don’t get any pesky ice balls building up within the hoof. If you need or want to keep shoes on, studs can help grip in some cases but it’s important to bear in mind the added pressure points on hard ground can cause stress on lower limbs.
Ice balls (no not the sort you’d put in a cocktail!):
Ever seen someone in the yard with a big pot of Vaseline or grease bending over with a hoof in hand? Think they’re a little kooky or had a few too many sherries at last night’s Christmas work party?! While both these things could be true what they’re doing is actually an old trick. Smothering the sole of the hoof with oil or petroleum jelly based substances helps stop the snow and ice compacting in the hoof. I used to do it and I’m sure many of you have too and it does work well, but not always. Anti-snowball (or ice ball) pads can be used between the hoof and shoe, fitted by your farrier to stop the build-up and any potential bruising.
Dry hooves make happy horses (and owners):
In the UK we don’t generally get the freezing snowy winters that mainland Europe or North America do, meaning we get damper, muddier and generally soggier weather through our winter months resulting in wetter horses and hooves. Constantly wet hooves can soften, allowing cracks to form and allow bacteria in. Therefore it is very important to have ample dry shelter for your horses.
Check out our Mobile Field Shelters or Barns where you can bring your horse in under cover for a pamper session to dry off or a Stable or Field Shelter with rubber matting to cushion his hooves for a while out of the cold. All these will potentially over time save you expensive farrier and vet bills. Healthy happy horses don’t need the vet so much!
There are various ways to keep your horse happy whilst you battle the winter elements. Just don’t forget his carrots on Christmas morning!