Even a minor injury to one of a horse’s four hooves can prevent you from riding effectively, if at all. So you must clean and check your horse’s hooves before and after every ride.
Parts of the Hoof
To care for a horse’s feet properly, you should know the parts of the hoof. If there is an injury to the hoof, you may need to describe the injury—using correct terminology— to the barn manager, veterinarian, or farrier. This diagram shows the components of a horse’s hoof.
Problems in Horses
Some of the more common foot problems encountered in horses include:
- Lameness: Favoring one or more leg(s), limping, abnormal gait or movement. Many causes.
- Laminitis: Chronic or acute inflammation of the laminae in the hoof, which can cause coffin bone rotation. Caused by colic, toxins in the blood, foot concussion, infections, allergies, overeating, or even sudden weather changes.
- Navicular disease: Mild to severe pain in the area of the navicular bone; may involve inflammation of the navicular bursa, ligament sprains, cartilage or tendon destruction, or bone changes. Caused by genetics, environment, or poor conditioning.
- Thrush: Fungal destruction of the middle of the sole; can turn the sole black and give it a strong odor. Caused by dirty or wet conditions, untrimmed hooves, or owner neglect.
- White line disease: Fungal infection in the hoof wall.
- Sole bruise: A bruise in the sole of the hoof (similar to a bone bruise in humans). Caused by concussion to the sole.
- Corn: A sole bruise in the heel area of the hoof; marked by reddish discoloration. Caused by leaving a short-heeled horseshoe on too long.
- Sand crack: A vertical crack in the hoof wall; may be mild or painful, depending on severity. Caused by uneven weight bearing, irregular hoof growth, wire cuts, overgrown hooves, or dry conditions.
Farriers use special tools when working with horse’s feet. Tools you may see farriers using include:
- Pull-offs (pincers): To remove horseshoes, nail stubs, and improperly driven nails
- Nippers: To trim the hoof wall
- Rasp: To create a level bearing surface for the pull-off and smooth out the trim
- Hoof gauge: To determine the angle of the hoof relative to the surface of the ground
- Clincher: To draw down clinches (the visible part of the nails on the hoof wall)