Your bond with your horse can enrich both of your lives, and protecting your horse’s hooves is essential to their health and happiness. Cracks can form in many situations, but there are ways to protect against them or to begin healing them. If a horse has any nutritional deficiencies, cracks may start to form in all four hooves. One way to spot this is if the hooves start showing horizontal ridges. Excessively wet or dry conditions can also lead to cracks forming. Also, as hooves dry from being very wet, they can become brittle and again vulnerable to cracking. Some moisture is fine for horses, but their hooves shouldn’t be constantly exposed.
While many hoof cracks are superficial and cosmetic, rather than causing long-term damage, it’s still best to try to protect your horse from them! There are lots of great ways to protect them, and conditioning can help keep them strong as well!
Luckily, there are some ways to start:
- Make sure your horse’s hooves are protected
- Exercise your horse daily
- Consult a farrier and a vet
- Aim for a nutritional diet
- Keep your horse in a dry, clean stable
1. If the shoe fits...
If your horse’s shoe is too short, it can leave its heel unsupported and eventually lead to cracks forming. Make sure your horse is properly fitted for shoes, and keep them clean as well! Not only will it keep your horse feeling its best, it may help you avoid other issues that can crop up later.
2. Ensure your horse is getting daily exercise
Working with your horse and strengthening its muscles is essential to keeping your horse’s hooves strong. A horse that isn’t getting enough exercise its hooves will be weak and will crack easily, even with very little pressure. Also, make sure the surface your horse is walking on is not too hard because overexposure to excessively hard surfaces can cause issues for horses as well. As a plus, exercising your horse is just a fun time for both of you!
3. Get help from a farrier
It never hurts to reach out for outside help for both you and your horse, and a good farrier will never let you down. A farrier is a craftsman who grooms and cares for your horses’ hooves and knows their specific needs is invaluable. While you can keep your horse’s hooves clean and help keep them strong, a farrier is a professional who has been specifically trained to work with horse hooves. Farriers can also shoe your horse, so they can help you with that and make sure that your horse’s shoes always fit!
4. Create a nutritionally balanced diet
Help your horse develop strong hooves from the inside out. Protein is essential for hoof health, and amino acids are incredibly important. There are some supplements to help with this as well.
It’s easy to synthesize all of the carbohydrates for your horse’s diet, but there are some fatty acids that they just are not able to get from hay and processed grains. If your horse is in a good pasture, they’re probably doing great, but if not, there’s a good way to add in those necessary fatty acids! Rice-bran oil and soy oil are two great sources of omega-6 fatty acids, and flaxseed oil is a great option for omega-3s. Flaxseed oil can be somewhat hard to work with, so make sure you talk to a vet before taking on this fragile, expensive oil. There are also commercial products that can aid your horse’s nutrition and include those fatty acids. This also has the great benefit of helping your horse’s coat become more glossy!
5. Keep your horse’s stable clean and dry
Staying in a clean, dry stable is essential for more than just a horse’s hooves, but it also great for their hooves! Not only will this help with their general health, plus make your time with them more pleasant, there are other advantages to making sure that your stable is dry. Having persistently wet hooves can lead to hoof cracks, and can cause a lot of issues if left unchecked over time.
Know the Warning Signs
If your horse does have cracks in their hoof, don’t worry! A vet or trained farrier will be able to help your horse heal. There are a lot of different kinds of cracks, including grass, sand, heel, bar, toe, and quarter cracks.
Grass cracks are superficial, and can be caused by lack of exercise or by a change in what the horse is walking on. They are superficial, but should still be cared for.
Of these, quarter cracks are often the most severe. Generally, quarter cracks come from a horse putting its foot down unevenly. They can also come from other issues, such as imbalance or frequent contact with hard surfaces.
Taking care of your horse and its hooves will only help strengthen your bond with it. When in doubt, it’s always best to ask a veterinarian or farrier, because they are trained to make sure that horses and their hooves are healthy. Above all, remember that if your horse is well taken care of and happy, you should be happy working together!