It’s not very often that we have to say this in the UK, but the current hot, dry spell could be causing major problems for your horses’ hooves. Not only do you need to make sure that your horses have access to the much larger quantities of clean drinking water they need in this weather, but you might also need to water their hooves, too.
In this hot, dry weather, most horses will be outside for as long as the flies allow, and the dry heat and bone-dry ground will do what over-dry bedding does in the stable. It will suck out the moisture from your horses’ hooves, and they will begin to contract.
The frog, bulb and white line in particular, naturally contain large amounts of water and can dry out quickly, leading to damage that could cause your horses considerable problems and put them out of action for a long time.
When they’re too dry, your horses’ hooves lose their elasticity, flexibility and their resilience as ‘shock absorbers’. As they shrink they will lose their optimal shape, which changes their contact with the ground and may cause shoeing problems.
But most worryingly, the hoof wall may crack and create openings for bacteria, fungus, and parasites.
What to do
What your horses’ hooves need is water, and ideally they need to be submerged in water up to and over the coronet band, for at least 15 minutes each day :
- Providing unlimited, clean drinking water is the absolute essential. Hooves will absorb some of the moisture they need from the inside out.
- When you’re out riding, if you can find a stream or standing fresh water, let your horse stand in it for a few minutes to give the hoof structures an opportunity to hydrate.
- If you have a water trough in the field, let it overflow so your horse is standing in water or wet mud when drinking.
- If you hose your horse down after exercise, do it somewhere where the water will collect around the hooves.
What not to do
- Don’t make the mistake of using hoof dressings, oils etc. They don’t hydrate the hoof and they may prevent moisture from being absorbed.
- Don’t bring your horse in at night into a stable with a very dry bedding as that will suck moisture out of the hoof.
- Don’t bring your horse into a stable with a wet or dirty bed. This is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, fungus and disease that will penetrate dry hooves through cracks caused by shrinkage.
Actually, these last two ‘Don’t’s’ apply at all times and in all weathers, summer and winter. Providing the right bedding in the stable is always essential to safeguard your horses’ health, including hooves.
Bedmax has always recognised that hooves are one of the biggest equine healthcare risks for horses in stables, and we make our shavings accordingly. We make them from naturally antibacterial pine timber and we make them larger and more resilient to give good support under the hoof. We also dry them to a very specific moisture level so that they don’t dry out the hoof too much and cause the cracking that allows bacterial and fungal infection to invade the hoof wall and the inner structure of the foot.
So please enjoy this wonderful weather, but keep those hooves well-watered, and bring them in safely at night to a healthy, hygienic, supportive and comfortable bed of Bedmax (or Littlemax) shavings!