Ensuring all equine in South Carolina live in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment.
Lexington South Carolina 803-729-3692
by Rebecca Colnar
|Because winter is when you aren't riding your horses as much, it's a good time to pull their shoes.|
Pulling the shoes and leaving the horse barefoot enhances the overall health of the feet. The hoof wall thickens, sole depth increases, and heels expand. When the hoof is not restricted by shoes, it has increased circulation, movement and expansion capability within the hoof capsule.
When shoes are pulled and are intended to be left off for a while, you should trim the foot differently from when the horse is shod. For the horse to get the maximum benefit of going barefoot, trim so as to provide the utmost protection to the bottom of the foot.
The frog is left untouched, and no sole is removed. The heels are moved back to the widest part of the frog, if possible. Also, more hoof wall is left on to ensure that the wall is higher than the sole, so that as the horse walks, no weight-bearing is placed on the sole.
|The hoof wall should be rasped at an angle from the ground surface, starting just outside the white line. The rasp is then used to remove the sharp edge around the perimeter of the hoof that was created by rasping the foot at an angle. This will create a rounded surface to the edge of the hoof, helping prevent cracks and chips.|
The horse should be trimmed regularly while his shoes are off, with the emphasis on keeping the edge of the hoof sufficiently rounded.
Hooves tend to grow more slowly in the winter months. It is thought that some of the circulation is diverted from growth to warmth. This does not mean that hooves don't need attention.
The unshod feet should be trimmed regularly (four- to six-week intervals) and painted twice weekly with an appropriate hoof dressing. The ground surface of the foot as well as the hoof wall should be painted. A little extra care and regular attention during the winter when your horse is unshod will result in a stronger, healthier foot the rest of the year.
The conformation, quality of the hoof and terrain dictate whether all four shoes or just the hind ones are pulled.
If your horse needs to remain shod because it is ridden all winter and turned out daily, you may want to add pads under the shoes when the ground freezes. Pads help prevent sole bruises from the uneven, frozen ground.
In areas that get snow and icy weather, additional precautions should be taken. A shoe with a fuller (crease) should always be used. Added traction can be achieved by using a hard surfacing material such as borium, or studs can be placed in the toe and heel of the shoe.
When borium is used, it should be applied to the horseshoe as small in-line caulks in the heel, not large projections. Large mounds of borium on the bottom of the shoe can place unnecessary strain on the horse's joints in the limb above the foot. In the toe area, the borium is melted across the entire toe of the shoe so that the tungsten particles are exposed, again avoiding large projections on the shoe.
If studs are used instead, there are two types available: drive-ins, which stay permanently, or screw-ins, which can be removed or changed as needed.
Ice nails are also available. These have a borium bubble on the nail head. They are easy to use, as they just replace the existing heel nails. The disadvantage is that the borium bubble tends to wear out quickly.
However you put it on, borium means that your horse's feet can do more damage if they kick other horses or hit themselves.
What about snowshoes for your horse?
In just a leisurely walk, snow can build a platform of several inches under the foot. This can be dangerous to both horse and rider.
Snow will usually be thrown out of the foot at a trot or faster gait, but it remains dangerous. Moreover, the compressed snow can cause subsolar bruising, especially in thin-soled horses. It is important to be aware of this problem and to keep picking the horse's feet out as necessary. Cooking oil sprayed on the underside of the foot may be helpful, but it wears off quickly.
In areas with a lot of snow, some type of snowball pad is essential. Three popular styles of pads are used to prevent snow from packing in the bottom of the feet. Flat, hard plastic pads can be used, on which cooking oil can also be sprayed. There are also "snow popper" pads, which have a bubble in the middle that pushes off excess snow.
Inside rim pads (Hufgrip) have a rim that is higher than the ground surface of the shoe. On impact, this rim compresses and dislodges the snow. The rubber version of the rim pad works better than the plastic version, but doesn't hold up as well.
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