Snowmelt is being welcomed by cattle producers, but should raise caution signs for horse owners, according to the University of Arkansas (U of A) Division of Agriculture.

Parts of Arkansas saw record snowfall during a recent winter storm system. Temperatures rose to near 70 just a few days later, melting the snow, swelling streams, and making muck.

"What is positive with the snow is it will help replenish soil moisture," said Tom Troxel, MS, PhD, associate head of the animal science department of the U of A Division of Agriculture.

"With 2010 being so dry, soil moisture was down to zero," Troxel said. "Most, if not all, of the snow will soak into the ground."

Horse owners need to keep a close eye on their charges' hooves if they are walking around in the mud.

"Most horses deal pretty well in the mud, but if they have shoes on, then there is a great chance the shoes will get sucked off," said Mark Russell, MS, PhD, instructor-equine, for the U of A Division of Agriculture. "It's better if you can keep their feet bare if they will spend any long period of time in muddy conditions."

Russell said long-term exposure to soggy conditions can lead to cracking, chipping, or splitting of the hoof. Even more dangerous is the development of what's known as white line disease, which can lead to the horny part of the hoof separating from the rest of the foot, leaving the foot vulnerable to infection.

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