Caring for your horse’s hooves during the summer
The summer months mean much more sunlight, even in the UK! Just as we need to be aware of the hot and unforgiving surfaces such as pavements, paths and roads if we own a dog, the same caution has to be taken for our horse friends. If a horse is exposed to burning tarmac and hard floors, their hooves can really suffer so it’s important that you make hoof care a priority when summer comes around.
A horse is the sum of their hooves
Whether your horse works or is kept for leisure, their hooves are one of the most important parts of their body. If a horse’s hooves aren’t looked after and become unhealthy over time, they will be in pain and unable to be as active as you and they would like.
Often, genetics plays a big role in determining the health and growth of your horse’s hooves and any problems they might encounter over the years. It’s likely that you won’t necessarily have the information you need to predict whether your horse will experience issues with their hooves, so the best way to keep them healthy is to work with the hooves that your horse has!
This is particularly important in the summer months, as the weather gets warmer and there are increasing pressures on your horse’s hoovers.
Potential hoof issues during the summer
Hoof wall issues can be caused as a result of walking and working on surfaces that have been hardened under the sun.
Dry weather can also cause your horse’s hooves to become dry and cracked. Cracking is especially prevalent in the summer months as the air becomes stifling and hot. Cracks can occur naturally, however it’s important to be vigilant during hot weather as cracks can run deep – these are known as ‘sandcracks’ – and cause pain for your horse.
Environmental factors play a role in the growth of hooves. In fact, hooves tend to grow faster in the summer! So be on the lookout for more growth than usual during the warmer months, and schedule regular trimming or shoeing to ensure your horse is comfortable and their hooves are in good condition.
To complicate matters even more, the unreliability of the British summertime means that moisture levels vary throughout the warmer months. This causes problems for hooves that are exposed to dry conditions, then wet conditions repeatedly.
Stones might be more prevalent on paths that your horse walks along in dry, hot weather and when caught in a horse’s hooves, stones can cause bruising and can even puncture the sole of the hoof, as well as lameness.
How to care for summer worn hooves
It’s best to get ahead of the warm weather and start making plans for ways to keep on top of your horse’s hoof health as early as possible to avoid any pain, discomfort and long term damage to your horse’s hooves.
One of the best products to have on hand is a good hoof moisturiser. This will help any horse with brittle, dehydrated and dry hooves and will improve cracked hooves and prevent deeper sandcracks. Apply the product regularly while keeping moisture changes in your horse’s environment to a minimum if possible!
As a horse’s hooves grow in the summer, it’s best to help them grow the best possible hooves they can! This might come down to genetics as we touched on earlier, but there are still simple steps you can take to improve hoof health.
Hoof supplements are one way to boost your horse’s vitamin and mineral intake. Some hooves take well to these added nutrients, while others might see very slow changes. It’s also worth speaking to your vet about ways to improve your horse’s diet. This can help promote healthier hooves, even in challenging summer conditions.
It’s important to check your horse’s hooves regularly for stones, punctures, cracks and growth. This goes hand in hand with picking your horse’s hooves – don’t leave it to your farrier! That way you can spot any issues sooner rather than later, and keep their hooves clear of stones and debris. You should do this regularly throughout the day. It’s good to know what is normal for your horse. When your horse’s hoof is healthy, their frog will be firm and slightly warm.
You should also work with your farrier to tailor your horse’s shoeing schedule to your horse’s needs during the summer. Your horse might need to be shod much more regularly as their hooves grow faster, and remedial shoeing can help a horse with hoof wall issues and cracked hooves.
Phil’s top tips:
- Consider getting your horse super absorbent bedding which will contain moisture and reduce your horse’s exposure to wet and damp conditions, keeping the flux in moisture to a minimum.
- Check your horse’s digital pulse on each leg. A strong, throbbing pulse will indicate pain and inflammation in the hoof and is worth investigating further to rule out bruising and an abscess.
- Keeping your horse active – whether it be walking or trotting – will boost circulation in their hooves, promoting growth.