If you’re thinking of buying a horse anytime soon, be sure to learn as much about horses as possible before you even decide on what kind of horse you’re going to buy. You never know, there may be a lot of things you’re not even aware that you should know about horses.
For example, you may not be aware that while a horse’s hooves are strong, they can suffer from cracks and chips for a variety of reasons. You may also be unaware that it’s important to protect your horse’s hooves against cracks and chips because these can lead to a variety of health conditions that include infection and lameness.
A Cause of Frustration
It wouldn’t be such a big issue if there was a quick fix for cracked hooves. But there isn’t. Once your horse’s hooves are cracked, it can take a long time for them to heal. And that’s not even the worst news. You see, you can’t just sit back and wait for your horse’s hooves to heal, even when you’re already providing the necessary treatment. You also have to do your best to prevent the damage from worsening as you wait for new, healthy hooves to grow.
The moment you notice cracks in your horse’s hooves, you need to determine whether those cracks were caused by poor quality of the hooves or by external factors. Poor hoof quality is typically caused by inadequate diet. External factors that cause cracks can include wet conditions that soften the hooves and make them vulnerable to cracking. It is important to ascertain which of these factors is the key cause of the hoof cracks because treatment will depend largely on the cause.
Hoof Supplements for Cracked Hooves
There are several hoof supplements on the market that claim to help, either by preventing or treating cracks. Some of these products are fed orally, while others are applied directly on the hooves. But the outer part of a horse’s hooves is technically dead tissue, and if you know this fact, then you’d likely wonder how your horse can benefit from anything that’s applied on dead tissue. Wouldn’t that kind of supplement be just a waste of money and its application a waste of your time?
Although it is essentially dead tissue, a healthy hoof wall does have about 25% moisture content. If your horse’s hoof wall becomes too dry due to poor diet, cracks can occur. It is only logical, therefore, that if hoof cracks are caused by dryness, the hooves will benefit from topical applications that can improve its moisture content. On the other hand, if the cracks were caused by wet conditions, the hooves can benefit from topical applications that act as a sealer, preventing water from further softening and damaging the hooves.
If the hoof problems experienced by your horse are caused by poor diet, there are generally two supplements that have been shown to have a positive effect. The first is biotin, which is part of the B group of vitamins that a perfectly healthy horse would normally produce in the digestive process. The second is zinc methionine, which contains an essential amino acid.
Biotin cannot be stored by the horse’s body, so if you opt to give your horse this supplement, you’ll have to feed it daily. Note as well that your horse’s condition may not improve until about six months after you start supplementation, so don’t expect quick results. Just monitor your horse’s condition closely and use common sense in deciding whether to continue with the supplementation or not. Of course, it would also help to seek the advice of your veterinarian.
Considering how lengthy the treatment process for cracked and chipped hooves is, it would definitely be a lot wiser to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Here are some very useful tips for preventing cracks and chips in your horse’s hooves:
- Schedule regular hoof trimming with your farrier and make sure your horse’s hooves are trimmed properly.
- Avoid using horse products that contain lime, as this can cause drying in the hooves.
- Avoid using harsh shampoo and leaners as much as possible, but if you have to use them, be sure to do so sparingly, as they can strip the hoof surface of protective fats and oils, thereby also causing dryness that can lead to cracks and chips.
- Before trying any hoof dressing (or any other horse product, for that matter), be sure to ask your veterinarian and/or farrier about it. If the vet/farrier suggests another product, use that instead.
- Pay close attention to your horse’s diet. Make sure it is always kept healthy because a healthy horse is likely to have healthy hooves as well, and it is always better to build strong hooves from the inside.
- Make sure your horse always gets a good supply of clean drinking water because healthy hooves begin not only with a healthy diet, but also with clean water.
- Be sure to provide your horse with regular exercise. Just like a glossy and beautiful coat, the health of a horse’s hooves depends largely on getting the right amount of exercise.
- Make sure your horse is always getting the necessary nutrients in the right amount, whether from diet or supplementation. Protein is especially important because it is the most abundant nutrient in a horse’s feet and a lack of protein can compromise the quality of a horse’s hooves.
The battle against cracked and chipped hooves can indeed be a frustrating one. But if you start with prevention, you’ll definitely be making things a lot easier for yourself and for your horse. If your horse still suffers from cracked or chipped hooves despite your precautions, be sure to address it immediately, no matter how minor the problem may seem. It is never wise to underestimate a condition such as cracked hooves. If you’ve never heard these words of wisdom before, then you definitely should keep them in mind: “No hoof, no horse.”