Hoof Care – 5 Tips for Trail Riders

Published in the May 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review

BY SARA GALLOW

Terry Thoreson of Madden, Alberta has been a professional farrier for 10 years, working in a range of different disciplines. First taught the art of hoof care by his father, this third generation farrier recognizes the history and heritage behind what he does. Here are Terry’s top five bits of advice for maintaining strong and healthy trail hooves.

Supplements – Biotin and fish oil are great supplements to improve the health and strength of your horse’s hooves. Although genetics and hoof care in the first few years of a horse’s life really determine the overall health of a horse’s hooves, these products can make a big difference and improve hoof health.

Investigate the Terrain – Before heading out on the trail, make sure you have an idea of what terrain you can expect. If you are heading to the mountains or other rough terrain, it is imperative that your horse be shod. Some people choose, for financial or other reasons, to shoe only their horse’s front hooves. However, depending on how aggressively you intend to ride the trail, it may be prudent to have all four hooves shod.

Hoof BootAlternative to Shoes – Hoof boots are great to carry with you on any ride. If you lose a shoe far from home, you can finish your ride without compromising the health and safety of your horse. For those of the barefoot trimming genre, hoof boots can be worn in place of steel shoes for additional protection, traction and cushioning on rocks and hard ground, and are a good option for a horse which cannot be shod for medical reasons.

Regular Maintenance – Regular maintenance is essential to keeping your horse’s hooves healthy and strong. To be prepared properly for the trail, trims and/or shoeing must be maintained on a regular basis. Check them after crossing rivers and creeks, as water and sand can chafe the back of your horse’s hooves and cause discomfort.

Duct tape – Yes, its just another ingenious use for that common household item. If you happen to lose a shoe on the trail, a hoof boot isn’t handy, and you neglected to invite your farrier along for the ride, you can alternatively wrap the hoof in duct tape, essentially making a temporary moccasin, and protecting it until you can have it re-shod. At six dollars a roll, it’s an inexpensive temporary solution.

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