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Hoof Care

      Learn to care for your horse’s hoofs            


“No hoof, no horse.”

There is great truth in that short sentence. Yet many horse owners make simple mistakes that can compromise the health of their horses’ feet, interfering with their riding and performance goals.
To learn the three most common hoof care mistakes, we turned to Tom Curl, a specialist farrier based in Vero Beach, Florida. Curl focuses on sport horse lameness and travels extensively to work on challenging cases. Recognized worldwide as an expert in patching quarter cracks and using glue-on shoes, Curl has worked on many prominent horses, including repairing the quarter cracks that plagued champion Big Brown, winner of the 2008 Kentucky Derby-G1. Curl has been a farrier since 1972 and was inducted into the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame in 2006.
Curl urges owners to pay attention to the following areas to give horses the best opportunity for soundness. “All three are intertwined and part of the essential equation for healthy hooves,” he notes.    
Mistake #1: Neglecting Daily Care
Daily observation — including picking out all four hooves — is one of the easiest ways to know what’s happening with your horse’s feet. Many owners only clean hooves when it’s time to ride or before the farrier arrives. “A lot of people don’t even put eyes on their horses’ feet every day. Many times a problem has started to develop, but it’s missed early because people weren’t looking at the feet daily,” says Curl. “You always want to find something before your hoof care professional finds it.” Develop a regular hoof care program and stick to it, but evaluate it throughout the year in case changes are necessary. For example, your horse may require hoof conditioner at certain times of the year, but not year round. During wet seasons, your farrier might suggest using a hoof product that fights bacteria. Regular care includes routine visits from a hoof care professional, whether your horse wears shoes or is barefoot and just needs trimming. The time between visits may vary slightly, depending on your individual horse, how often you ride, time of year and region.
Mistake #2: Poor Stabling and Turn-out Conditions
“Wild horses’ hooves are constantly self-cleaning because the horses are on the move, so whatever is trapped in their hooves falls out. But when we put horses in a small area that is wet and muddy or dry and sandy, this is not healthy for the hoof,” Curl notes. “All the good feed you’re giving and great products you’re using can’t compete if you have the horse turned out in poor conditions for six to 10 hours a day.” Hot, dry, sandy conditions pull moisture out of the hoof, while wet, muddy turnout softens hooves, which can allow bacteria to invade. You want to cast a critical eye on the bedding in your horse’s stall. “Shavings are the main bedding used in the U.S. but they need to be clean and dry,” says Curl. “If they are stored outside and put in the stall wet, they will pack into the hoof. When you get warm, moist shavings packed tight, this softens the hoof wall and sets up an environment for bacteria to live, almost like a Petri dish. Both the sole and the hoof wall can begin to deteriorate.” “If your horse is stabled, clean out his feet before putting him in the stall,” he advises. “Pick through the bedding two or three times a day and remove all the wet spots.”
Mistake #3: Nutrition Problems
Talk with your veterinarian and farrier to create a nutrition program that fits your horse’s specific needs. Follow label recommendations and feed a commercial balanced ration that targets your horse’s activity level, age and requirements.
“Nearly every horse can benefit from a supplement meant to improve hoof quality and growth,” says Curl, who advises giving a supplement 60 days before evaluating how well it’s working. Ingredients such as methionine, lysine, lecithin, biotin, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc and protein help strengthen hooves and promote growth. Read labels to check for these ingredients when shopping for a hoof supplement. Be sure to follow directions and feed the proper amount for your horse’s weight.
  2016 Farnam Companies, Inc. All trademarks are property of Farnam Companies, Inc.

Grooming Tips to Have Your Horse Looking Great


Get Your Shine On!

Ever done a double take when you’ve seen an especially handsome horse? A dazzling coat and a glossy, flowing mane and tail will always turn heads, whether you’re in the show ring or heading down the trail. You may never plan on showing your horse, but you still want him to look his best. Your obvious starting point is providing complete, balanced nutrition designed for your horse’s age and use. Then comes the fun part: a regular grooming routine that keeps his skin, coat, mane and tail clean and conditioned.
Beyond appearances, grooming is a time of bonding and relaxation for you and your horse. It’s also a great way to spend quality time with a horse you can’t ride for whatever reason, such as a young horse, an old retiree or a horse recovering from injury.   To find out what kind of grooming routine the pros rely on, we chatted with Tina Anderson of Millsap, Texas, a lifelong horse owner and an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) judge for 15 years. Anderson is also Director of New Product Strategy and Development at Farnam Companies, Inc. Despite all of the myriad grooming products on the market, Anderson insists there’s really no substitute for good old-fashioned “elbow grease.” You don’t need a huge arsenal of fancy tools to do a great job, either. Of course you can add to this list, but the basic grooming essentials are:
  • Rubber currycomb
  • Stiff-bristled brush
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Grooming rag/towel
  • Detangler/shine product
  • Hoof pick
  • Mane comb
Anderson has used the following routine for decades and finds it works well for any type of horse. Start with the head. If you have a small rubber currycomb, use this very gently on the face. Otherwise, use a soft brush and a soft, damp towel. Wipe out ears and nostrils carefully with the towel. Spray a detangler/shine product on the mane and tail; let it absorb a few minutes while you curry and brush the rest of the horse. Use a rubber currycomb over the entire body, including the belly and flanks. Brush off the dirt you’ve raised with the currycomb using a stiff-bristled brush. Be gentle on the legs. Follow by running a soft-bristled brush over the whole body. For mares, use your towel to clean the udder gently, including between the teats. For males, check and clean the sheath weekly, or, at the very least, monthly. Pick out the hooves with a hoof pick. Use a hoof pick with bristles on one end (or a stiff brush) to remove any dried mud or manure from the outside of the hoof. Use your fingers to pick through the tail to remove any tangles, starting from the bottom and working your way up. If it’s tangle free, you can use a soft brush. Never use a comb in a tail; it pulls out too much hair. Use a mane comb to comb out the mane. If the mane is long or thick, treat it as you would a tail, skipping the comb and using your fingers or a soft brush instead. Finish up by running a clean grooming towel over your entire horse to remove any last traces of loose hair, dust and dander. You won’t need to use a detangler/shine product every day, but spray it on every few days or as needed to keep your horse’s mane and tail from tangling. This will also help repel dirt and stains, keeping his body clean and his coat conditioned. “It’s useful for more than just providing ‘shine,’” says Anderson. “A detangler/shine product is great for repelling stains, preventing knots from forming and keeping burrs from getting stuck in the mane and tail.” Don’t forget to clean your brushes every few days, or even daily if your horse is especially dirty. Just swish them in a bucket of soapy water, rinse well with clean water and let them dry in the sun.  
H2O Time
Unless the weather is too cold, you’ll want to rinse your horse off after every workout to remove dirt and sweat. It might smell wonderful, but shampoo isn’t needed every day. Once a week is plenty. And when you do shampoo, be sure to choose one that’s formulated for horses and follow label directions. “People often use ‘human’ shampoos, but these aren’t the best for equine hair and skin,” says Anderson. “For stubborn stains, look for a shampoo you can let soak in. A shampoo applicator you attach directly to the hose is great when you’re short on time because it really blasts out dirt.” Don’t forget the mane and tail, but be sure to rinse out the shampoo completely or it can leave a gray, gummy residue. Anderson has found that the best method is to use a bucket when washing tails. Carefully submerge the tail in a bucket of soapy water and scrub well with your fingers, making sure to go all the way up to the top of the tail and under the tailbone. Rinse thoroughly, and to make sure you’ve removed all the soap, refill the bucket with clean water and submerge the tail completely. A frequent complaint about human hair products is that buildup can occur with continued usage. Anderson says this isn’t typically a problem with horse hair products … providing you’re using the right products correctly. “If you use quality products formulated for horses and rinse properly, you shouldn’t get buildup. When you do see it, it’s usually in the tail because shampoo is hard to rinse out. That’s why I recommend soaking the tail in a bucket of fresh water.” When the weather’s too cold for bathing, use a dry shampoo made for horses. You spray it on, massage it in and wipe it off with a damp towel. This is especially effective on manure and urine stains.
Common Mistakes
Horse owners — even those with years of experience — often make mistakes when it comes to grooming. Anderson shares some of the most common ones: Not grooming regularly. If you’re not in a regular grooming routine, you run the risk of missing small problems that can become big issues. Plus, your horse simply won’t look his best. Using the wrong grooming tools. Use brushes and tools made specifically for horses. That means no metal currycomb or scraper; they can be hard on skin and damaging to hair. Combing tails. A comb and a tail should never meet! Combs pull out hair, even when used carefully. Use your fingers and a detangler product. Start from the bottom and work up to remove any knots. Only when a tail is tangle free should you use a brush on it, but skip the comb. Shampooing too often. Shampoo can dry out the skin and hair coat when used too frequently. Once a week is plenty and many horses don’t even need it that often. Applying shampoo directly to the horse. Read the label! Many equine shampoos are concentrated and require only a small amount in a bucket of water. Pouring it on the horse wastes money and the product won’t work as intended.
    By Cynthia McFarland         © 2016 Farnam Companies, Inc. Farnam and Farnam with design are trademarks of Farnam Companies, Inc.

Emergency Wound Care: How to Stop Bleeding

    Every horse owner should know what to do if an injury occurs. In an emergency, such knowledge could even save your horse’s life. No matter how the injury occurred, whenever a wound is bleeding, your first concern is to limit blood loss. You may have already called the veterinarian, but until help arrives, you need to take action. Because of the horse’s sheer size and power, handling him when he’s under stress or in pain can be daunting. Focus on remaining calm and thinking clearly so you can soothe the horse and keep him as quiet as possible. The more excited he is, the harder his heart will pump and the faster the wound will bleed. If an artery is cut, blood will spurt with each heartbeat. If a large vein is cut, the wound will ooze continuously.   The rate at which blood is lost can actually be more important than how much blood is lost. A horse can literally lose gallons of blood at a slow trickle and survive, while faster bleeding can be life threatening, even if just one-tenth of his total blood volume is lost. To staunch bleeding, use non-stick gauze squares if available, but in an emergency, you may have to use a T-shirt or other absorbent material. Maxi pads are great to keep in your first aid kit just for this purpose. They’re highly absorbent and easy to use. Using firm, direct pressure, hold the absorbent material—gauze squares, clean towel, maxi pad or bandage—over the wound for a minimum of five minutes. Even if the gauze squares/towel/maxi pad/bandage becomes soaked with blood, resist the temptation to lift it from the wound. Add another layer on top and keep pressing on the wound. Once you staunch the blood flow, apply a pressure bandage (if the location of the wound allows), until the veterinarian arrives. If you think your horse may have lost a significant amount of blood, it’s crucial to get a veterinarian on the scene as quickly as possible. Monitor the horse for signs of shock, which include:
  • Dramatically pale gums
  • Acting weak, wobbly or “spacey”
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Weak pulse
  • Capillary refill time (CRT) is increased (greater than 3 seconds)
  • Ears and lower legs feel ice cold
  By Cynthia McFarland © 2016 Farnam Companies, Inc. Farnam and Farnam with design are trademarks of Farnam Companies, Inc.    
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