The old adage – no hoof, no horse – is well known by horse owners and carers around the world. From quarter cracks, to thrush, to abscesses to lost shoes… our horses really do their best to keep us and our farriers on our toes!
We’ve teamed up with horse health experts – Carr & Day & Martin – to bring you some insights into keeping your horse’s hooves healthy and as trouble free as possible. In this blog post, we look at an overall approach to hoof management, as well as a look at the structures that go to make up the hoof itself. In our next post we will look at how to keep your horse’s hooves in excellent condition, from regular maintenance, to managing environmental factors.
A total approach to hoof management
With up to date research a scientific approach to hoof care is now possible. The sensitive nature of the hoof is now well recognised, as is the effect of environmental conditions. Unfortunately, as there is no one ‘wonder product’ to remedy all hoof problems a ‘total approach’ to hoof management is therefore the best policy.
The continued health of the hoof is vitally important. There are four key factors which contribute to hoof horn quality and growth:
The role of a farrier is essential. Regular shoeing is vital to minimize mechanical stresses from loose nails and prevents nail holes from becoming enlarged which provides an entry site and breeding ground for bacteria. However However, you can guard against bacterial infection with regular disinfection of nail holes, cracks and the frog.
As well as making sure your horse is shod regularly, involve your farrier in a planned and therapeutic approach to hoof care.
A stabilised moisture content of the hoof is also essential and the external environment can be controlled by applying an appropriate dressing to either prevent or provide moisture to the hoof horn.
Horn quality and growth can be encouraged and maintained by using the appropriate product, in association with a tailored feed supplement.
Understanding the hoof
The hoof is an extremely complex structure and the single biggest factor affecting the horse’s soundness.
The central role of a hoof is to act as a shock absorber and protector of the internal structures. The hoof withstands huge forces from the weight of the horse – whilst standing still and in motion – hence the adage ‘no hoof, no horse’.
Back to basics
The hoof surrounds and protects the lower part of the short pastern, the pedal and navicular bones, as well as the lower part of the deep digital flexor tendon.
The hoof wall grows downwards from a band of tissue called the coronary band or coronet. The horn grows at the rate of a centimetre a month, taking approximately one year to grow from coronet to the ground. The outer covering of the hoof wall is termed the periople and acts as a moisture regulator, however, the shoeing process often removes this important tissue.
The internal surface of the hoof wall consists of a layer of non-sensitive and sensitive laminae, attached to the pedal bone. The underside of the hoof is a slightly concave shape for strength and grip.
Much of the concussion of movement is absorbed by the hoof and beneath the pedal bone is the digital cushion, which absorbs and dissipates the weight from the short pastern. This mechanism widens the lateral cartilage, which spreads the heel, thus absorbing the concussive forces over a greater surface area.
Coming soon… making healthy hooves a priority…