We have all heard the expression: without the hoof there is not horse, and how true that is! Imagine if you had bruises on the bottom of your own feet, or were walking with rocks in your shoes. Then imagine you were asked to play basketball……ouch!
This is an issue that all horse owners deal with in winter weather: stinky, soft, thrushy, winter hoof! Our horses live the high life, clean stalls full of fresh shavings, with plenty of turnout time. Even so, we have our fair share of winter hoof. This is caused by bacteria buildup within the cleft, heel, sole, bars, and frog areas of the hoof due to a moist environment. The bacteria causes a soft sole which is very painful to walk on, and in more extreme cases, chunks of hoof may fall off, leaving the horse lame.
The best cure is to catch winter hoof early. The main signs are a soggy looking frog and heel, a rank smell coming from the bottom of the hoof, and a soft sole. As the rains begin in the fall, make sure to pick out your horse’s hooves daily to clear out mud and rocks. Check the hardness of the sole of the hoof with hoof testers or a hoofpick. If it seems to give (and especially if the horse pulls back their foot in pain), you need to help your pony pronto!
Since the issue is a wet and bacterial hoof, we must keep the hoof dry and dis-infected. My favorite way to treat the hoof is with diluted bleach and10% bedadine solution. There are many expensive remedies out on the market, but for less extreme and maintenance cases, these liquids are inexpenseive and very effective.
I like to make the solution and put them in everyday spray bottles. This not only keeps the mess down, but is a very effective and quick way to apply the solutions.
- Pick out your horse’s hoof well, using a stiff brush (some hoofpicks have one attached on the end) to scrub out the smaller dirt particles from the cleft and bars.
- Spray your solution onto the sole, getting as deep into the cleft of the frog and bars as possible
- Finish by scrubbing the liquid deep as well.
If your horse needs basic maintenance, alternate liquids and apply every three days. Try to keep the horse in a dry stall with shavings to soak up any moisture from the hooves for part of the day. If your horse has severe thrush, consult your veterinarian for prescription treatments. He will most likely need to be kept in a clean dry stall until his condition improves.
Please post any questions, or if you have any good remedies that have worked for you!!