Why You Should Pick Out Your Horse's Hooves September 25 2015

Your horse’s hooves – so important, so essential. Of course you should pick out your horse’s hooves – every rider knows that.  You should do it before each ride as any stones or debris needs to be removed before you add weight onto the horse.  Also, if you do it first, before you go out for your hack, then it will give you a chance to make sure that there are no problems at all.  Likewise, when you return, you should also pick out his feet.  Then both before turnout and after, when he returns to the stable, you should pick out his feet.  Removing manure, checking for heat and pulse and any signs of thrush.   You need to be able to remove all the debris so that you can see the sole’s entire surface – you should finish off with a stiff brush.  Some hoof picks come with a brush attached, so you could use that or buy a separate brush. 

When everything is ok with your horse’s feet, the temperature will feel very slightly warm.  You should check the digital pulse with two fingers pressed against the back of his pastern – this is to check the strength of his pulse, not the rate.  Take a look at the frog which should have the firmness and texture of a new rubber.  Just a point, though, your horse sheds their frogs at least twice a year, perhaps more often – so do not be alarmed if the frog appears to be peeling off.  You have probably not spotted this before as the farrier will have trimmed the frog regularly and thus you will not have seen this process before.

What conditions are you looking for when you clean out and examine your horse’s hooves?  Thrush, which is a bacterial condition most likely due to standing in manure and other wet conditions such as mud, has a foul smell and dark ooze from the cleft of the frog.  Treat by using an over counter remedy.   Perhaps there is a puncture – if you see an object, do not pull it out, just call the vet after you have put your horse into his stable.  Then there are cracks which some might be just superficial and others more significant – describe the crack to your farrier for his advice.  Finally there could be an abscess – if your horse’s digital pulse feels stronger than usual and his foot is warmer than it is on a normal day, then there could be an abscess.  This could be caused by a nail which has been badly placed, a bruise or an overlooked sole puncture, so get your vet out.  If your horse is shifting from foot to foot and has a digital pulse which is not normal, then it could be laminitis and thus you should call your vet straightaway.