Your Horse's Feet a good Foundation is Important
Jim Hamilton, DVM
One of the first questions you have to answer after getting your
first horse is, "Does he need shoes?" The answer depends on the
quality of foot he has and the kind of ground he is on.
When you are evaluating your horse's feet, several things should be
considered. First, examine the hoof wall for cracks. A brittle
wall is a potential problem because it lets in dirt, bacteria,
and fungus which can lead to abscesses, seedy toe, gravels and
All of these conditions result in a lame horse, something we
would like to avoid! A brittle, cracked wall is primarily a genetic
problem. A bad-footed mare produces a bad-footed colt.
If your horse has the problem, putting shoes on will help because
it holds the foot together and less chipping will occur.
Adding biotin and methionine to the diet will also help produce
a better, thicker wall. These additives are easy to
find, are cheap, and they really do help.
The second consideration is the shape of the foot. Is there too
much toe? Is the heel angle too far under the foot, indicating an
under-run heel? Is the sole of the foot too close to the ground,
indicating flat footedness?
These are all important questions to answer if one is to fully
evaluate the foot's shape. Again, shape abnormalities predispose
the horse to lameness. Corrective shoeing can help minimize
these problems; a good farrier is critical.
The third factor is the type of ground the horse is kept on. Many
horses with poor feet get by on clay, but when changed to a sandy
soil may go lame. This is because the sand fills up the bottom of
the foot and adds sole pressure. Thin-soled horses or those with
flat feet have trouble. Clay soil also holds moisture better than
sand and therefore adds more moisture to the foot. This is
important for a healthy foot! A brittle hoof wall will get worse
as it dries out. Hence, in the sandy soil of the southeast and
California, good foot care takes on a whole new meaning.
It has been estimated that as much as 70% of the lameness
problems in field trial and endurance horses are hoof-related.
Many, if not most, of the problems could be avoided if the time
is taken to evaluate the horse's feet properly and take proper
precautions. It's better to spend time building a stronger
house than figuring out what to do when the roof falls in!