How to Strengthen a Horse's Hooves?
I bought one of my old lesson horses yesterday. And went to see him at the barn for the first time. He is 23 years old and looks great, besides his feet. We are getting the shoes removed because we do not believe in metal shoes, prefer barefoot, and they are causing him more problems! He is not lame, and does not have any swelling or other leg injuries. His hoofs are terribly dry, cracked, and chipped. The people before us that owned him had turned him out in the pasture for 1 year without ANY grooming. Which is one of the reasons we bought him, because we felt sorry for him. We are having the farrier come take off his shoes and trim him and my other horse soon. My question is, is what can I do to repair his feet, moisten them, and harden them? I am already putting conditioner on them. Thanks!(:
I think the most important step in building better quality hooves is good nutrition/well balanced diet. The second step would be a regular schedule with the farrier. Hoof conditioners won't repair the damage that has already been done, but can help to protect from any further damage/drying out. Sounds like you are already on your way to getting all this sorted.
It can take a year for the entire hoof to grow out, so it takes a while to really start to notice a difference so hang in there!
When I got my TB from New holland auction in may 2010 she had front shoes, I had them removed the day after I got her and he feet were chipping and cracking. I started her on bioflax 20, a biotin supplement and after a few months her hoof quality had improved dramatically. She now has fantastic feet and can go over pretty much any surface with no problems, including a gravel driveway, who says all TB's have terrible feet :-P
I'm with Rachel. Despite what some will say about hoof supplements being useless, I found my horse's hooves improved a lot with Horseshoer's Secret. It's very high protein with biotin and some other necessary things. (Lysine maybe?) Anyway, supplement will help from the inside. For the outside, nothing beats a good setup trim and it's very important to keep trimming out flares while the hooves are reshaping. I recently transitioned my TB to barefoot and am finding he needs a "real" trim every month and I do an additional maintenance mustang roll every two weeks to keep up with flares that are trying to grow.
If this horse has never been barefoot, have hoof boots on hand before pulling the shoes. Movement is the key to making this happen successfully. The horse will not move if it hurts to do so. Make the horse as comfortable as it needs to be to encourage it to walk around often. Take him for barefoot hand walks on every surface you can find as often as you can. It will do wonders for getting the circulation going down there.
If your horse is ouchy and the sole is a bit soft, you can paint the sole with spirits of turpentine. It will help dry and harden to sole. Do not paint the frog.
Good diet, good exercise, good trim, and a good hoof supplement.
Hoof boots help too.
The best place to start is a good balanced diet.
In addition to the diet I have had good luck adding black oil sunflower seeds (about a cup) and some flax seed (1/3 cup) to the diet to help with dry hooves. It takes months for the feet to grow out, so be patient. Find a good farrier and keep up with trims.
I agree with the other posts- start with a quality complete feed or ration balancer. If he's been on just pasture for the past year he's likely deficient in several key minerals.
You may also want to supplement biotin, since some horses seem to need more of it than others. Here's an interesting article about it: Biotin Basics: News: Kentucky Equine Research
And, of course, regular visits from a qualified farrier are important. As you begin fulfilling the nutritional needs of your horse, you might find that his hooves start growing very rapidly for a time. Pay close attention, and if you notice his hooves getting long, don't wait for your next scheduled visit- call the farrier and ask to pull it in.
He needs a hoof supplement with at least 20mg of biotin. I use BioFlax from Smartpack, or SmartHoof. If you have more money, you can check out other supplements that have extra ingredients.
I'd invest in a pair of hoof boots. I'd suggest Easyboot Gloves. They're easy to put on and can stay on for a decent length of time. They are also rather inexpensive. This will help with any bruising the horse might have. You really need to be careful about bruises when transitioning from shoes to barefoot, as bruises can because abscesses, making the hors super lame and in a great deal of pain.
Once his hooves have more moisture and look decent, you can spray iodine on his soles daily to help toughen them up. Iodine kills living tissue so try not to spray on the frog or heels. After a trim or when you think he has a bruise, you can paint Venice Turpentine on the soles too. This quickly hardens hooves. Do not apply more than a few times a week though, or else the hooves become too hard. I try to not apply it within a few days of a trim either, because the farrier will hate you if you do. He has to work harder. :D
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