Winter is in full swing across North America. Horses that used to be sleek and shiny, now look like yaks with their heavy winter coats. Equestrians across America have taken to hiding inside until better weather conditions come around once again. Unfortunately, our horse’s hoof care needs are more crucial than ever over the winter! On top of cleaning horse hooves everyday, now equestrians have to face some additional challenges that winter brings.
Luckily, we have five top winter horse hoof care tips curated just for you. Follow these tips to promote optimum hoof health and keep your horse happy all winter long.
Prepare for Sore Hooves
Every winter the ground freezes over and all the soft natural springiness of soft dirt and grass hardens into a frozen tundra. This cold and frozen ground is very unforgiving for our horse’s hooves. The ground doesn’t give way as the horse steps on it and can be almost like concrete in some climates. Particularly if you continue to ride your horse outside over the winter, this hard footing can cause stone bruises and place extra concussion on your horse’s joints.
Many horses also get a little extra frisky when the temperature drops. This can translate to galloping around the paddock and play-fighting with herdmates. While all of this activity is great for our horse’s minds and health, it’s not the best for horse hoof care when the footing is poor. The continuous pounding wear and tear can cause your horse to come up lame with very sore hooves.
Having a product on hand like Absorbine’s Magic Cushion can be a lifesaver when it comes to horse hoof care.
Magic Cushion contains turpentine and iodine to reduce hoof heat in as little as one hour and relieves the symptoms associated with hoof concussion and trauma.
At the same time, Magic Cushion’s natural ingredients kill and prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi to avoid harmful conditions like thrush.
Be Aware of Snow Build-up
One common challenge that many equestrians struggle with every winter is snow build-up in our horse’s hooves. These snowballs can make cleaning horse hooves very difficult. They also cause your horse to be off balance and place extra strain on soft tissue and tendons. If they get too big, these snowballs can make your horse feel like they’re walking in high heels all day long!
There are several options to keep snow from building up in your horse’s hooves. Start by talking to your farrier. If your horse is shod, your farrier can install several different types of pads to prevent snow from building up. One common option is rubber rim pads that work to force snow out of the hoof. There are even specialty winter pads that feature a round bubble in the middle to pop the snow out of the hoof.
If your horse is barefoot, installing pads of any type may not be an option for you. Instead, try using a pair of hoof boots when your horse is turned out. Not all horse hoof boots are designed to be worn during turnout, so read the descriptions carefully before choosing which one to purchase.
The CavalloTrek Regular Sole Hoof Boot is a good option for the barefoot horse looking for extra protection during turnout.
The high quality tread lessens the impaction of mud and debris. Also featured is an inside rim for sole, frog, and bars relief.
Wide velcro closures ensure that the boot will not fall off of your horse's foot.
Make Cleaning Horse Hooves a Daily Habit
The continuous freeze and thaw cycle that takes place over the winter across the United States creates less than ideal horse hoof care conditions. The muddy frozen lumpy mess that many pastures become over the winter and early spring can harbor bacteria that cause hoof conditions like thrush.
While thrush is very common and not generally harmful if caught early, it can cause serious problems if it is allowed to progress deep into the hoof. It is caused by many different bacterial strains, and even some fungi. Some of these strains of bacteria can become particularly aggressive, working their way deeper into the hoof and destroying the frog as it goes to eventually expose very sensitive and raw internal tissue.
The best way to combat thrush is to prioritize cleaning your horse’s hooves every day. It’s a good idea to have thrush-fighting products on hand, like the Lincoln Stockholm Tar in a Tub. This antiseptic dressing keeps the frog, sole, and wall of the hoof healthy.
Originally sourced from pine trees, this hoof dressing has been used by horse owners for decades because of its antiseptic and waterproofing qualities.
Clean Stalls Often
Wet, cold winter weather keeps many horses inside for longer hours than over the summer months. Many horses appreciate the break from the blistering wind and freezing cold air, but spending an extended amount of time in a stall can actually cause problems in terms of horse hoof care.
If they’re not cleaned properly, stalls can quickly become filled with urine and manure, leading to the growth of bacteria and fungi. This unhealthy environment combined with limited movement causes thrush infections or even painful abscesses. If your horse is in a stall often over the winter, make sure to clean it at a minimum once a day, and preferably even twice a day, to cut down on the amount of urine and manure that will build up on the stall floor.
If you board your horse at a barn, you may not have the luxury of deciding to increase the number of times your stall is cleaned. What you can do is clean your horse’s hooves more often. Removing all that dirt, manure, and urine-soaked bedding will help to prevent the growth of bad bacteria and keep your horse healthy and happy.
You may also want to use a product like Absorbine’s Hooflex Natural Dressing and Conditioner.
This horse hoof care dressing contains all natural ingredients like comfrey, arnica, tea tree oil, and avocado oil.
Together, these ingredients work to maintain the hoof’s natural moisture balance and support shiny, healthy hooves.
Work Closely with Your Farrier
Over the winter, many equestrians are riding less often due to the frigid weather conditions. Because of this, it’s very common to pull a horse’s shoes and have the horse go barefoot over the winter months. While this practice does have some benefits, namely a decreased risk of snow build-up in the hooves, it may not be the best decision for every horse. Some horses can become extremely tender-footed without shoes.
Before making any decisions, communicate closely with your farrier as they’ll have your horse’s hoof care close to their heart. If you do pull your horse’s shoes, consider adding a supplement to support healthy hooves to their diet. For example, EquiThrive’s Hoof Pellets deliver essential elements to safely improve hoof quality at the cellular level in horses of all ages and breeds. Ingredients include the well-known essential nutrient Biotin, which supports hoof cell growth and division for added strength.
Keep in mind that even if you pull all four of your horse’s shoes, you’ll still need to make cleaning your horse’s hooves a daily habit and stay on top of all farrier visits. Many equestrians already see their farrier less often over the winter as hoof growth slows and trim cycles may be extended by a week or two. Keeping up with your horse’s hoof care is vital to their overall health and happiness all winter long. Whether you decide to pull their shoes or keep them shod, seeing the farrier regularly will allow your horse to stay sound and hit the ground running come spring.
Everything You Need for Horse Hoof Care All Winter Long
Winter horse hoof care requires a different set of products and supplements than any other time of year. The frozen ground and harsher living conditions require a little more knowledge, time, and products than over the summer!
At Breeches.com, we pride ourselves on stocking the products you need at affordable prices. Check out our selection of supplements, hoof picks, dressings, ointments, and more.
Click here to shop all things winter horse hoof care.