ACCORDING to research, the most common cause of lameness is found in the foot of the horse.
Competition horses living in stables and with restricted paddock turnout have limited opportunity to toughen their feet and are susceptible to a number of foot problems. The practice of training and competing horses in modern equestrianism on exceptionally ‘good’, well-groomed surfaces has resulted in horses developing thin soles that are susceptible to bruising. Evolution of the equine to modern day husbandry is not necessarily strengthening the species.
So, what can we do to ensure our horses’ hoofs can withstand the pressures of performance today? We need to counteract – unnatural diet, artificial terrain, excessive weight on hooves from both horses and riders as well as a general poor understanding of hoof anatomy amongst horse owners.
A three-fold approach is needed to ensure continued hoof health, avoidance of trauma such as stone bruises, cracked wall and diseases such as navicular, laminitis and thrush.
1. Foot hygiene
Stables should be designed to incorporate a ‘run-off’ for urine and water. Bedding must be clean & fresh to reduce the build-up and growth of endemic bacterial and fungi within the stable environment. However, excessively dry bedding will compromise the natural moisture of the hoof horn. Daily application of TRM’s Hoof Conditioner will assist in maintaining good moisture content in the hoof horn which is extremely important to keeping hooves supple.
The farrier has a huge influence on the balance of the foot. Preparation of the hoof, the type of shoe used and its placement will all affect the displacement of force on the forefoot and adjoining limb. A good farrier is one of the most important services you will acquire for your horse. Correct and regular shoeing will not only save you money in the long-term but more importantly it will save any unnecessary stress and pain on your horse’s limbs.
Master Farrier Mark Brennan of Racing Victoria, Australia has the following recommendation: “As part of our business we are often called in by the vet to deal with problem hooves. As part of our strategy we always recommend a hoof supplement and the one we choose is Hoofmaker Pellets. It is in a pellet form that the horses seem to like and its high level of biotin promotes growth as well as improving the quality of the new growth. Our customers have been both pleased and surprised by the results we have been able to achieve.”
Nourishment of the hoof and all the underlying structures should receive primary attention, as they are the foundation of the horse. General nutrition and hoof growth promotors must not focus solely on the outer hoof wall but must take into consideration all three layers of the hoof wall (stratum externum, stratum medium, stratum internum) as well as the bars, frog and sole of the hoof.
Ultimately either damaged or healthy hooves need optimum keratinisation (hoof growth). Keratin sulphate is the main structural component in the hoof horn. Keratin synthesis is dependent on several mutually inclusive factors, all of which are present in the ultimate supplement for hooves – Hoofmaker.
In summary, to ensure what is perhaps the smallest structure of the horse in comparison to its body mass there is no doubt the four hooves are of utmost importance; bearing weight of over half a tonne, moving at speeds of 40km/hr or landing from a 2.20m puissance wall, hoof health is very important.