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Wrangling on the Range #104

Healthy Hooves

                        
WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #104

HAPPY FEET

Good management will help promote strong, healthy, problem-free
hooves.

Keeping hooves at their healthiest requires ongoing attention and
effort. Here, we provide a roundup of strategies for promoting
hoof health and soundness over the life of your horse. Key areas
of concern:

NUTRITION. A diet to promote hoof health is really no different
from a diet to promote overall health. Because the hoof wall
consists largely of keratin, a structural protein, it's important
that your horse's diet contain enough high-qua(ity protein, which
supplies the amino acids essential for hoof growth. The good news
is that high-quality hay will supply most horses' protein
requirement. If your hay is low in protein (you can tell by
having it tested), you can supplement your horse's protein intake
with a commercial concentrate.

Hay-testing tabs: Go to forage testing.org and click on
certified labs.

Another important diet consideration or good feet is to avoid
excess sugars refind starches - also called nonstructural
carbohydrates--as they can increase a horse's risk of laminitis.
Most feed companies now offer low-NSC concentrates that supply
protein and energy without much sugar and starch.

If you have any doubts about the approateness of your horse's
diet, check with your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist. 

HOOF CARE. 

Your horse needs hoof care by a competent profesnal on a regular
basis, typically every four to six weeks. Keeping the hoof
properly shaped and trimmed promotes the erealth of the foot and
helps avoid undue stresses to leg tendons.

DAILY MAINTENANCE. 

Clean your horse's feet regularly to keep the frogs healthy and
thrush-free, and to inspect each foot for early signs of injury
or disease. Come to know what's normal for your horse, including
the temperature of the foot in your hand (an increase in temp can
indicate inflammation).
Check the look of the foot overall and the condition of the sole
in particular, asking your vet or farrier/trimmer about anything
that concerns you.

GROUND/FOOTING. 

Mind the ground your horse lives and works on. Clean his stall or
pen regularly so he's not standing in manure. Try to avoid
turning him out in deep, muddy footing, which can promote thrush
and loosen shoes (not to mention cause slips that can injure
tendons and ligaments). If possible, avoid living conditions that
result in his feet getting wet and then drying out every day,
which can promote dryness and contraction of hoof tissues. Make
sure the arena you ride in has appropriate footing and is free of
stones that can bruise or otherwise injure the foot. Use common
sense on trails, being especially careful anyplace you can't see
the footing clearly, as in muddy water crossings. If you keep
your horse barefoot, always consider the potential need for
protective boots over ground that's harder and/or rockier than
he's accustomed to.

EXERCISE/MOVEMENT. 

Movement promotes circulation and hoof growth. Ideally, keep your
horse in a living arrangement where he can, weather permitting,
move around natu rally throughout the day and night, and exercise
him regularly.

EXTRA HOOF HELP

If, in spite of your best management efforts, your horse has hoof
problems, here are options to consider, in consultation with your
vet and/or farrier:

* Supplements. Helpful in dealing with thin soles, brittle walls,
and slow growth. With so many hoof-targeted products on the
market, however, look to your vet or equine nutritionist for
advice on what might be best for your horse. Most useful
ingredients:
Biotin. This B-vitamin has been scientifically shown to help
promote fast, strong hoof growth. Recommended is a daily dose of
about 15 to 20 mg for a 1,000-Ib horse.
Amino acids. These building blocks of proteins can increase
biotin's effectiveness: they include methionine and lysine.
Minerals. Zinc/zinc sulfate, copper, and manganese support hoof
health.

* Hoof boots, pads, gel pads. Helpful for protecting the feet of
barefoot horses over hard/rough ground and or transitioning a
horse from wearing shoes to going barefoot.
Your farrier also might put pads under your horse's shoes to
provide extra support/protection for certain conditions, such as
thin soles or navicular syndrome.

* Soaking boots, soaking potions. helpful in dealing with
abscesses and injuries.

* Topical ointments and dressings, pomoted a remedies for various
hoof conditions, including dry hooves, tender soles, thrush. and
so on. Check with your hoof-care professional on the correct use
of such products.

For more healthy-foot advice, enter "10 horse hoof care tips"
into search box at HorseandRider.com.

DECEMBER 2010 HORSE AND RIDER 23

To be continued from time to time



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