Maintaining The Foot

ALEX: You know, proper daily care of a horse’s foot, it’s really important to do every day.

One is to check the horse’s hoof to see if there’s any heat. But also, to pick their foot out. Make sure there’s no debris, mud, or dirt. That keeps a healthy hoof, because it’s a concave structure that has to reach down and grab and pull.

If you get any rocky material or dirt accumulated in there and they start rocking, it puts sole pressure, it changes the symmetry of how they move. It’s not a good thing. So, it’s important to do that every day.

STEVE: Some tell-tale signs of a problem that is originating in the hoof. First off, obviously, there’s a potential for lameness or a gait deficit. When you isolate it to the foot, you usually have an increased pulse in that foot.

When you inspect the foot, a lot of times you can find that there’s a possibility of soreness around the coronary band, which is an abscess which can break out typically here at the bulb of the heel.

If you check the integrity of the wall both inside and out, sometimes something as basic as a corn, or, let’s say a quarter crack, or let’s say an imbalance where the the horse has put too much pressure, he has a sheered heel.

Look at it for symmetry, balance, and also the fact that they’d have a pulse. Or, let’s say something as simple an obstruction. Maybe there’s a rock. Maybe there’s a puncture wound in the foot.

A good thorough, full inspection of the foot itself is the first thing I do on most lameness cases because it’s the most obvious. It’s the one thing that makes contact with the ground. Most lamenesses, probably somewhere in the order of about 90 percent, are due to foot problems alone, without any other complications or secondary problems.

The way that you remedy most complications from foot, number one is balance. Typically, when a horse is out of balance, either medial-lateral, or corner-corner, or from front to back, you tend to put pressure in areas where the foot is not evenly dispersed throughout the area.

Quarter cracks are primarily as good an example as there is of an area that gets too much pressure. Finally, you get an internal bruising. Then, you create a separation in the wall and it breaks open as a quarter crack.

We can have ways to heal them, but the best way to heal it is to preventatively get the foot balanced…get the quarter crack pulled back together. We typically try to suture them back together. Then, allow it to grow out with that continuous balance, so we don’t have a problem in that area.

ALEX: One of the best ways to keep a horse’s hoof maintained is really a proper diet.

STEVE: A good healthy diet, which takes care of all the other necessities of the horse’s health, is obviously going to be paramount to maintaining the foot.

However, if you do have a horse that has chronic foot problems, it may be necessary to supplement with sulfur-containing amino acids, in particular methionine and cysteine. There are commercial products, like Farrier’s Formula in particular, that are available now. If you need to supplement them, they are available for their diet.