Winter Hoof Hazards

Make sure to take care of your horse's hooves this winter


In areas of the country where winter brings snowstorms and subzero temperatures, many horses end up enjoying an extended break from their usual arena work and/or trail outings. Remember, however, that your horse’s hooves need attention even if he is taking it easy for a spell. Here are three conditions that can befall overlooked hooves in winter:

Hoof bruises: Frozen ground can be unforgiving, particularly on hooves that are normally shod but suddenly go barefoot for the season. If you don’t want to leave your horse shod during a training break, consider using hoof boots for rides or short turnout sessions instead.

Imbalances: Overgrown hooves stress soft tissue structures in the foot and leg at any time of year, but long toes and low heels combined with choppy, frozen or muddy pastures put your horse’s soundness at an even greater risk. Keep up with his regular trimming schedule to maintain proper hoof balance.

Thrush: When nasty weather keeps horses standing in stalls or stagnant mud, this smelly hoof infection can set in quickly. Be vigilant in both stall cleaning and daily hoof care over the winter months. Keep in mind that inactivity increases the risk of thrush, so take every opportunity for turnout this winter. Remember, a blanket or thick natural coat is sufficient to keep a horse warm even in frigid temperatures.

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #461, February 2016.