Hoof Trimming and Leg Stress: One Step at a Time
Have you ever walked in shoes that you’ve had forever that are just a little worn to one side of the heel or the other? Did you notice that after awhile your knees would start to hurt, or maybe your ankles? Now think about wearing those shoes 24 hours a day, every day, for an entire month without ever taking them off. Image how miserable you’d feel.
Now, apply that to the horse whose owner says he can go a few more weeks before he needs a trim or even worse, to a horse whose owner thinks the animal can go all winter without any hoof care. Now, take a step back and imagine wearing those ill- fitting shoes for the entire winter. You should cringe at the thought.
The reality is that horses’ feet are often neglected, especially during the winter months. Shoes are usually pulled, farrier visits become less frequent, and the horses are left to suffer.
As a rule of thumb, we know that our horses should be trimmed (and shod if necessary) at least every six to eight weeks. But where did those numbers come from? Sure, after eight weeks, hooves will start to appear long, they might crack or chip and look unsightly, or on a horse with poor conformation, the feet might show uneven wear. All of these observations might seem benign on the surface, but they’re important, according to Meike van Heel, MSc, BSc, PhD, a researcher at Utrecht University’s Equine Performance Laboratory in the Netherlands. Van Heel recently studied how a hoof changes between trims, and she found that neglecting your horse’s feet could be setting him up for serious injury
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