There are six major health risks which affect stabled horses and one of these includes hoof care. With more horses in the UK spending a greater proportion of their lives in stables, bedding has become increasingly important to the health of horses’ hooves.
The hoof horn of the average horse is remarkably resistant to infection, considering the environment they inhabit. However, research indicates that horn infections such as seedy toe, onychomycosis and white line disease are becoming more common. These are known as dry infections, as opposed to the kind resulting from bacteria entering the foot via a wound.
Stables are an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive, and whilst good stable management is essential in reducing this risk, bedding can also be beneficial. There are seven key factors for effective hoof care:
Good bedding must provide the correct support under hoof, especially under the frog. This is hugely important when a horse is suffering with hoof problems, particularly laminitis.
Bedding that moves too easily will quickly leave an uneven, patchy covering on the stable floor. The best bedding provides level, consistent support between mucking out and topping up.
The size of the bedding particles is critical to hoof maintenance. Particle size will affect the quality and durability of the bed’s performance in terms of stability, compaction, absorbency, support, resilience and durability.
Smaller particles are more prone to compaction, especially when they absorb moisture. This can create a hard, uneven, lumpy surface. Larger particles, although maybe not as absorbent, do not compact easily and leave a soft comfortable bed.
This refers to the actual moisture content of the bedding product itself. Too damp and the bedding will contribute to soft hoof walls. On the other hand, if the bedding is too dry, it will absorb moisture from the hoof, creating dry, brittle and cracking hooves.
Whilst many forms of bedding stress the value of their capacity to absorb urine, it is worth considering that urine absorbed at the surface may contribute to hoof problems caused by long-term contact with ammonia, as well as other bacteria and fungi in the urine.
This is created by the breakdown of urea in the urine and can produce an eye-watering odour. As well as being damaging to horses’ lungs, there is also evidence that ammonia attacks the structure of the hoof wall causing deterioration and potentially irreversible damage.
Traditionally, stabling horses would be very seasonal; stabled during the winter and 24/7 turnout in the summer. Nowadays, this trend is very different for a number of reasons; competition seasons, limited grazing or even health problems such as equine obesity.
With the growing threat of laminitis at this time of year, it’s particularly important to understand how bedding can help your horse relieve the effects of this extremely painful condition. It is essential that bedding provides the very best support, particularly under the frog and pedal bone. It also must be stable and resilient to ensure an even deep bed which cushions weight both standing and lying down.
Bedmax shavings have been developed to provide all of these benefits, which is why it is the bedding chosen for so many leading equine vets and clinics, professionals, farriers and owners all over the UK. Through dedicated research, they strive to provide the best possible stable environment for the health and well-being of horses.