We all know what it feels like to break a fingernail or toenail, and it is certainly not comfortable. Luckily for humans, we do not have to walk or stand on that nail after it has been cracked or split. Horses do not have that same luxury. When a horse cracks or splits his nail, the results can be especially painful since the horse must continue to stand and walk on the broken nail. A horse cannot just clip his own toenail off; that must be done through the services of a professional farrier.
A farrier’s job is to provide shoes for horses and administer care for hoof problems. The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences does a great deal of work on lame horses, and a big part of treatment for horses’ hooves often requires therapeutic shoeing and a specialist who knows what to do.
“Hoof growth is a constant occurrence, though the rate of growth is affected by several variables,” said Jason Wilson-Maki, professional farrier for the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, and graduate of the Heartland Horseshoeing School. “Weanlings can grow as much as half an inch a month; yearlings grow slightly less. A mature horse will grow roughly .38 inches per month. An aged horse has a slower rate of about .25 inches a month. The seasons also play a factor in hoof growth. During the summer when forage is plentiful the growth rate burgeons. Winter growth rates are usually slower. Another contributing factor is exercise. A fit horse who is worked daily will have a greater growth rate. This is most likely due to an increased metabolic rate. Individual genetic factors should also be considered: some animals just grow more foot. Extrapolating from these growth rates, a schedule of four to eight weeks should be followed for hoof maintenance.”