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From the Ground Up

Hoof Health 101 starts with knowing the basics.

By Kayla Walden

“No hoof, no horse.This age-old adage means exactly what it says: without good feet, you don’t have much of a serviceable horse. But what makes a horse’s hooves healthy,and how can you tell if there’s a problem?

Hoof health is a complex topic riddled with twists and turns that make even the most dedicated equine enthusiast’s head spin. And you can’t fully address the subject of hoof health without raising the great debate among horsemen today: do horses perform best with shoes, or are they better off when allowed to go au natural?

It’s a complicated matter, but horse owners have a responsibility to educate themselves on how to keep their animals happy and healthy—and it starts from the ground up.

A Healthy Hoof

How do you know when a hoof is healthy and when it could use a little extra TLC?

Active APHA member, farrier and lifelong Paint lover Kenny Strohecker of Salem, Oregon, has seen hundreds of hooves since he began shoeing horses in 1997. And while every horseman has his own answer to the question of hoof health, Kenny saysthe answer is simple.

“I believe a healthy hoof is one that isn’t moisture or fungus-ridden,” Kenny said. “You should see clean, white tissue when you clean it out. The hoof wall should be nice and thick, and all the material around the foot should be consistent.”

Because the frog supplies blood to the hoof, Kenny says it’s important to keep it clean and free of debris and dead tissue.

“If the frog isn’t healthy, chances are the hoof won’t be healthy either,he said.

Some of the most common signs of an unhealthy hoof include cracking along the hoof wall, hoof rot, thrush and abscesses, Kenny says.

“When cleaning out the hoof, make sure there isn’t any rot, thrush or other unnatural material,” he said. “Those are sure signs of an unhealthy foot.”

One of the primary causes of unhealthy hooves is a lack of regular maintenance. Fortunately, this is easy to avoid by staying on top of your horse’s preventative care.

While Kenny says the average horse requires trimming every six to seven weeks, it’s important to understand your horse’s individual needs. Some horses need to be trimmed every four weeks, while others can go up to eight weeks; Kenny says this can vary due to speed of growth, strength of the hoof wall, ground conditions, performance demands and more. .

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This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2018 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

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