BASIC HOOF CARE
Why is hoof care necessary? True there are thousands of horses running free that never receive any hoof care. The environment allows for their hooves to wear at the same rate as the hooves grow. If the feet get sore they move less and the growth catches up thus maintaining this balance. With the majority of our domestic horses which includes mustangs in captivity the environment is very different and the hooves grow faster than they are worn thus routine trimming and hoof care is necessary. Another reason hoof care might be necessary is to prevent problems from conformational defects or injuries. In the wild these are self limiting problems as horses that go lame from poor conformation or injuries often fall prey to predators or die of starvation. This makes poor hooves somewhat of a self limiting disease in the wild as most of these horses will never reproduce. Quite often horses born with conformational problems in captivity will be kept and with proper care can lead a normal life, and possible too often these horses are also used for breeding due to other desirable traits. Hence most if not all domestic horses should receive some form of hoof care.
When should I start hoof care? Foals should have their feet picked up daily for the first 3 days of life as part of the imprinting process. Obviously you need to wait until the foal is steady on his feet to do this. This will allow foals to get used to having their feet handled and make trimming easier later on. At four to eight weeks of age trimming can be started. At this point hooves are small and relatively soft so only a few strokes of the rasp are normally required. Also at four weeks of age the foal’s conformation should be evaluated and if you have any doubt about his conformation have him checked by your veterinarian. During the first months of life many conformational defects can be improved with corrective trimming, glue on shoes, or surgery if severe. If you wait until later in life after the bones are set (closing of the growth plates) only minor or no improvements will be made and you may then have a horse that requires special care the rest of his life.
How often should my horse receive hoof care? With the exception of special circumstances, horses should receive hoof care every six to eight weeks. The exact time interval depends on the hoof care being received and the use of the horse. If Easy boots are being used for example more frequent trimming may assure a better fit. Your farrier or veterinarian will be the best judge of the recommended interval.
Does my horse need shoeing or boots as well as trimming? There are only 2 reasons most horses require shoes or boots: protection and traction. The argument that mustangs don’t require shoes or boots for protection so our horses don’t either is not true in my opinion. Mustangs tend to graze and move at a slow pace unless spooked. When ran, such as during a capture, many become sore footed. Combine this with the fact that we ask our horses to carry extra weight, most will agree that we need to protect the feet for many uses. If the horse is only used a small amount on soft ground then trimming should be adequate but otherwise consider shoes or boots. Shoes or boots also provide superior traction on most surfaces such as wet grass or pavement which is reason enough to justify the additional cost involved. Injuries to horse or rider from slips are common so keep the odds in your favor.