Hot weather, hard ground, dry hooves, bruised soles. Attend to your horse’s summer hoof needs, and you’ll head off foot problems. Here are key points to consider.
[READ MORE: Horse Hoof-Care Help]
Summer’s heat can result in rock-hard, compacted ground. To protect your horse’s hooves (and his legs) from concussive injuries, keep your arena’s footing watered and well-worked.
Out on the trail, be choosy about the ground you ride over, avoiding the hardest, most unforgiving terrain.
If your horse is barefoot, hoof boots may be especially advisable in the summertime to help protect his feet.
Whether your horse is shod or barefoot, regularly check his soles for bruising over the summer. Catching and helping to heal a sole bruise early on can head off a painful, slow-to-heal abscess.
Sweltering summertime climates can zap the moisture from your horse’s hooves, especially if you work him over sand. This can leave them brittle and more vulnerable to concussion, plus more liable to crack, break, or contract.
Another potential cause of dryness is a repeating wet/dry cycle. The hoof wall is somewhat like wood: It absorbs moisture quickly, but it also dries out quickly. When your horse’s hooves are wet-then-dry repeatedly, chronic dryness is exacerbated—similar to how people can develop “dishpan hands” from too much wet/dry in the kitchen.
To head off this problem, limit after-ride rinsing that wets hooves. Instead, sponge your horse off and cool him out, then give him a good brushing—it saves his feet plus benefits his coat as a bonus.
Though short periods of wetting can dry hooves, thorough soaking (of up to an hour) followed by the application of a good, non-oily moisturizer can be beneficial.
Horses vary in their susceptibility to dry-hoof problems. Bottom line: Keep an eye on your horse’s feet, inspecting them daily for dryness, cracking, or other problems when you pick them out. Then check with your farrier or vet if you have concerns.
Good nutrition is the foundation of hoof health year-round. In addition to high-quality forage and concentrates, a hoof supplement containing biotin, methionine, lysine, copper, and zinc may be helpful—ask your hoof-care professional.
[READ MORE: How to Use a Horse Hoof Supplement]
Sometimes a wet/dry cycle is hard to avoid, as when your horse is turned out at night in the summertime and exposed to dew-soaked grass. His hooves then dry out during the heat of the day, creating that wet/dry cycle.
One solution is to apply a hoof sealant to the lower two-thirds of his hooves before turnout to lessen the amount of moisture they absorb while exposed to dew. The sealant also helps the hooves to retain their natural moisture inside.