Holistic Hoof Tips
By Ruthann Smith
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© 2007, Ruthann Smith, All rights reserved.
No hoof, no horse. And, a stitch in time saves nine. Daily maintenance is the key to healthy hooves. Dirty hoofs are vulnerable to stone bruises, brittleness and thrush. Horses that stand in dampness (water, mud, urine, etc.) are subject to soft feet, tenderness and thrush. Dried- out hooves are susceptible to soreness, cracking and breakage.
Prevention is your best strategy. So, here are come tips for keeping your horse sound:
- Pick. Pick out your horse’s hooves as much as possible, including: before you take him out of the stall, before and after riding and turn out, etc. I use a traditional pick and a small stiff dandy brush designated for hooves only to finish. Clean the outside with the pick edge and brush. Note any changes.
- Clean. Thrush is very difficult to eradicate. It is contagious, plus most treatments kill the outer layer of flesh and drive the spores deeper into the hoof. Plus, the thrush feeds off the dead cells, so later it emerges even worse. Since thrush loves dampness and an anaerobic environment, clean stalls and hooves are pivotal. Good grooms pick out stalls throughout the day. If you are not at a full-service barn, why not coop with your boarding buddies? If you visit the barn at different times, have a pact that you’ll pick out your horses’ stalls. It only takes a minute and everyone will benefit.
This is the brush I like to use to clean hooves after picking.
- Pack. Most show horses I know get their feet packed 2-4 times a week, except when rainy. This involves rolling hoof packing into a fist-sized ball, mashing it over the bottom of the hoof and covering with brown paper. On a cupped hoof, this will stay on all night, but most hooves require duct or self-adhesive tape to hold the slippers on all night. Packing feet helps draw out foot soreness when horses are working lots, footing is hard, dry or rough like Florida’s sand. Hoof packing can be a tar or poultice base, sometimes mixed with Epsom salt. Just be sure that if you pack with poultice, that the hooves don’t get too soft.
- Paint. If the hoof is already too soft or footing is wet, sole paint can toughen up the bottom of the hoof and take away sting.
- Oil. Hoof oil has various uses. In Florida, where it can be very wet and horses get bathed often, they use it to keep water out of the hoof. It is also popular to shine and ideally condition hooves for showing. However, most people put it on thick and just before they go to the ring. This makes the footing cake on, which to me, defeats the purpose. I use a paper towel to apply a thin veneer to the outside, with time to dry. Choose a natural oil. Some use fish oil.
- Breathe. Never use hoof black or sparkles. They do not allow the hoof to breathe.
Healthy hooves are usually a matter of daily maintenance. Be mindful. And, may you always enjoy hardy hooves.
Ruthann Smith has spent a lifetime studying sound horsemanship- both as a groom for top international horses and as a renowned braider. Quietly twisting manes atop a ladder, she watched and learned in some of the best stables in the world.
As her passion for great grooming grew, Ruthann became focused on researching, collecting and sharing the best practices of the world’s keenest horsemen. Ultimately, Ruthann used her vast experience to develop exceptional equine grooming products to help raise the bar of horsemanship.
The knowledge she dispenses and the products Ruthann developed solve age-old grooming issues. Making quality horse care easier, they have received the highest honors in the equine industry*. Her Lucky Braids for Top Turnout coat care and braiding products are the best, most versatile, cost-effective and easiest solutions available on the market today.
Now Ruthann offers her LOVE, LOVE Guarantee. If not totally thrilled with a product she developed, Ruthann will refund you in full, regardless of where you purchased it.
It’s her life’s mission to empower horses by educating, motivating and equipping their people to be true horsemen. You can access Ruthann’s tips at: The Grooming Resource on LuckyBraids.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and her Horsemanship Clinics.
*After testing 350 products, Lucky Braids All-In-One Horse Shampoo was named product of the year by Horse Journal, the “Consumer Reports” of the industry. They also named Lucky Braids Shampoo and Top Pick for greys and whites. Lucky Braids specialized braiding yarn also got stellar reviews.