Do my horse's hoofcare needs change in the winter?
Yes - but they still need attention! A survey of local farriers conveyed that horse foot care should not be forgotten during the cold months of the year.
Most farriers and veterinarians agree that equine hooves tend to grow more slowly during the cold weather. The reason for this is under debate. Some people feel it is basically due to reduced blood flow to the feet. Others feel that it is related to reduced overall stress on the feet.
Hoof trimming on a regular basis has to be maintained. All too often, horses are trimmed in late fall and then not again until the warm weather of spring. Unfortunately, this commonly leads to hoof and lameness problems that could have been avoided. Most farriers feel trimming at 10-week intervals between November and April is adequate.
Horses being worked all winter may require special shoeing based on their housing facilities and exercise. The use of barium for traction and special pads to prevent "balling" of snow in shoes are some of these options. It is always important to consult with your farrier as to what may be optimum and most cost effective for your needs. In addition, most farriers feel a period without shoes during the year can be beneficial for the overall health of the horse's feet.
It is always important for owners to make a special effort to check hooves on a regular basis during the cold weather months. Look for hoof cracks, splits, and chips that may need attention. Check for sloughing of the frog area that may leave this area prone to damage from the frozen ground. Pick out the feet regularly (once a week or so) to check for frozen in objects such as rocks, sticks, or worse, nails that may pose a problem. (Never remove a nail without a veterinarian's assistance!)
It is imperative to maintain good foot/hoof health. A hoof problem which could have been avoided with proper foot management during the winter can be frustrating due to the lost riding time and expense as the weather improves.