Think about it:
The wrong equation: Hooves + Heat + Humidity = Horrors for Horses
The right equation: Harder Hooves = Happier Horses
I love North Carolina, but extreme heat and humidity can be hard on horses and humans alike. The very same water that relieves the heat and humidity problem for humans, wrecks havoc on our horses’ hooves, every single summer!
Every horse owner, veterinarian, farrier, rider, (not to mention the horse, himself!) wants to avoid the instant “ouch-response”, provoked by these pictures.
The culprit of the damage is not bacteria, not fungus, not disease, not injury.
It is: simply too much of what is otherwise a very good thing….water!
As owners, we struggle on the one hand to protect our equines from heat and insects by switching to “evening turn out”. It seems like the sensible solution, right? Not, exactly. Prolonged standing on evening dew-drenched grass, causes hooves to soften from contact with increased moisture. Once returned to a stall, these same hooves dry and contract, which should be a good thing, but , no. The repetitive cycle of wet feet to dry feet is what has causes the damage.
Enter the pesky summer flies to compound the problem!
As your horse stomps at flies, the impact of stomping causes the nail holes in the shoe to enlarge because the hoof is already softened. Ask any farrier in NC, and he will tell you he works longer hours in the summer. Why? Simply because of the constant calls to replace lost shoes from damaged hooves!
As veterinarians, we struggle to prevent the problem before it starts, by suggesting:
- Cut back on turn-out time in the summer: less hours at night standing on dew-drenched grass and less hours by day stomping at flies.
- Prevent the problem before it starts by reducing moisture absorption in the first place. Diligently apply a commercial toughening product to the hooves before evening turn-out. The best time to start is early Spring, making hoof-care a priority in your grooming routine, because “things take time”.
- Avoid unnecessary baths. Sponging the sweat from the horse’s body gets the job done without soaking the feet, and without exposure to prolonged standing in wash pit puddles. And humans will applaud you for saving water!
- Shorten your summer shoeing schedule. The extra bit of professional care can only help, and sometimes prevent hoof damage caused by a lost shoe.
- Ask yourself: is there any possible way a shaded dry lot (no grass) for turn out in the summer, could be created?
At the end of the day, we can only change what can be changed:
- Not the NC heat
- Not the NC humidity
- Not the formation of evening dew
For the sake of the horse, however, we can change ourselves. We can:
- Take bit of extra grooming precautions
- Seek creative turn out solutions
- Be patient with our farriers who year after year fight water as the enemy
- Believe in a better equation: Harder Hooves = Happier Horses
Our horse’s hoof-care is in our hands, literally.