Despite the fact that horse owners across the country might be willing it away, winter is here. And during winter, it’s important to remember the structures that will stand between your horse and the snowy and icy ground: his hooves.
Scott Fleming, DVM, CF, of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, and Tracy Turner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, of Turner Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, in Big Lake, Minnesota—two veterinarians passionate about hoof care—shared their suggestions for keeping your horse’s hooves healthy this winter:
Discuss shoeing options with your farrier, including scheduling and shoeing needs specific to your terrain and weather.
Beware of foot concussion
Turner advises owners to take caution when riding in the cold. “Using thermal imaging in winter, we frequently can’t find horses’ legs,” he says. “There’s not a lot of peripheral circulation there. So, if you’re going on a trail ride, use common sense about pounding your horse down the trail; foot concussion prevention may be compromised during winter.”
Fleming adds, “In areas where it gets really cold and the ground frozen, horses that are fine during summer may get sole bruising. Keep that in mind, whether you need to put them in soft-ride boots or, if you’re doing conventional shoeing, putting pads in.”
Prevent snow balling
Snow balling up inside your horse’s shoes can also cause sole-related injuries. A variety of pads are available to limit the amount of snow that can pack into the frog and sole areas: flat leather pads to keep snow out; urethane rim-type pads that force snow out; and bubble pads with tennis-ball-shaped centers that pop snow out.
Adjust blanket fit
Eliminate your horse’s chances of catching a hoof or shoe on too-long straps or ill-fitting blankets.
Having a winter hoof care plan in place ahead of time can help eliminate worries during the deep freeze.