A horse’s hooves grow continuously, just like human fingernails. This article looks at hoof care and what can happen to a horse that doesn’t get its hooves trimmed regularly.
Hoof care is vital to a horse’s health; the age-old saying no hoof no horse tells us exactly how vital hoof care is. Horse hooves can quickly grow out of control when left. When a horse’s hooves are overgrown, it stretches the tendons, leads to lameness, and causes severe health problems for horses.
Inadequate hoof trimming and care can have serious health consequences for your horse. A horse must be seen by a farrier regularly. Let’s find out what health problems can develop in a horse that does not get its hooves trimmed.
What Happens to a Horse’s Hooves if They are Not trimmed?
Horses that don’t get regular farrier visits develop several hoof-related health issues. The health and longevity of your horse depend on hoof and leg soundness; regular farrier visits are vital for a healthy horse. Untrimmed hooves are prone to chipping, hoof defects, and flaring that can cause other hoof-related health problems.
When a horse’s hooves are not trimmed regularly, it causes elongated toes; the hoof wall will develop cracks because of the unsupported hoof wall. Overgrown untrimmed hooves will result in collapsed heels that cause strain on the navicular bone and flexor tendons.
A horse with untrimmed hooves walks too upright, and this will cause trauma and pain in the leg joints and coffin bones.
To compensate for the overgrown untrimmed hooves, horses walk on the balls of their feet, which stretches the collateral ligaments and tendons that can lead to lameness.
How Frequently Should a Horse’s Hooves be Trimmed?
Several things can affect how fast a horse’s hoof grows. Depending on these influences, a horse’s hooves might need a trim every 6-to-12-weeks.
The factors that can influence hoof growth are:
- Age – Younger horses’ hooves grow quicker than older horses’ hooves.
- Winter – Horse hooves typically grow slower during winter.
- Nutritional deficiencies – Horses that don’t get a balanced diet develops less flexible, weaker hooves than horses receiving a nutrient-rich diet.
- Natural terrain – Natural trimming and wear on a horse’s hoof occurs when exposed to hard terrain and rocky pastures outdoors. A horse’s hooves will need trimming more often if he lives in a sandy soft ground paddock.
- Exercise- Regular exercise promotes healthy hoof growth for horses.
Trimming Hooves in the Summer
In the summer, a horse should typically get a good trim every 6 to 8 weeks when their hooves grow faster. Competing horses might need more regular trimming. A horse owner should watch his horse’s hoof growth if it needs a trim sooner.
Trimming Hooves in the Winter
In the winter, horse hooves generally grow slower, and a good trim should be done with a 6-to-12-week interval based on the horse’s overall hoof growth. It is a good idea to keep an eye on your horse’s hooves during wintertime because trimming depends on each horse’s hoof growth.
Take extra care in the winter of horses who are turned out; snow could ball up under the sole and cause bruising.
Wet / Winter Tips
When a horse is normally unshod, leave him unshod during the winter. In wet conditions, horses generally slip less when barefoot.
Some horses are prone to sole bruising during the winter and might need shoes. When your horse is shod through the winter, place snow pads under his shoes to prevent ice and snow from building up and give better traction.
Don’t forget winter weather can dry out a horse’s hoof wall, so applying hoof moisturizer is a good idea to prevent drying out.
Well-Trimmed Balanced Hooves Equals a Healthy Sound Horse
Horses that are shod and have well-trimmed hooves are balanced and move better, with no stress and strain on their tendons, ligaments, and bones. A shod and well-trimmed hoof is balanced and has the following characteristics:
Straight hoof-pastern angle
- A balanced straight line from the pastern down to the front of the hoof wall.
- This lines up the bones between the coffin bone and the pastern correctly.
Easy break over
- A well-trimmed hoof has a toe that is not too long is squared, rolled, and rounded.
- Allows easier movement with every stride.
- Too much break-over will cause health problems.
Enough heel support
- A shoe should extend back to the end of the hoof wall to support the back of the entire leg.
- The back edge of the shoe should be down the center of the cannon bone when a line is drawn.
- The horse’s hoof should land evenly from side to side as the horse walks.
Good Nutrition is Important to Solve Hoof Problems
Some horses have better hooves than others naturally. Feeding good quality hay and maintaining your horse’s nutrition will help your horse grow healthy hooves. Adding a mineral and vitamin supplement to your horse’s diet will produce healthy hoof growth.
Always provide fresh, clean water; it is vital for good hoof health. When a horse is on a nutrient-deficient diet, it will lead to poor hoof growth that can cause other health issues.
Correcting a horse’s nutrition deficient diet will gradually improve hoof health. It is important to talk to your veterinarian regularly to discuss your horse’s nutrition to ensure your horse is on the right diet and hoof supplement for healthy hooves.
If you have a horse with brittle hooves, you can help your horse grow strong, healthy hooves with the following tips:
- Always Feed good quality hay for a healthy horse with good hoof growth.
- Provide a good vitamin and trace mineral supplement.
- Always provide access to fresh, clean water.
- Correcting a nutrition deficient diet will gradually improve hoof health and growth.
- Discuss and set up a good nutritional plan with your veterinarian.
Commercially available hoof care products that have been shown to help poor brittle hooves contain the following ingredients that should be given daily:
- Biotin at 20 milligrams per day.
- Zinc at 175 to 250 milligrams per day.
- Methionine at 2500 milligrams per day.
- Iodine at 1 milligram per day.
Foals – Their First Hoof Trimming
All foals must be trimmed at one or two weeks old for the first time to correct any congenital hoof disabilities. Sometimes foals are born with imperfect hooves. Hoof care must start as soon as possible to correct any defects.
Trying to correct a hoof deviation after the foal is older than one year can cause more long-term damage; it is always better to address the hoof defect as young as possible.
Some foals are born either toed in or toed out; if you do not correct the defect with the first few trims, it can become permanently crooked and harder to correct later.
All foals are born with pointed front hooves to help break the placenta during delivery.
When a foal is allowed to walk with pointed front hooves, they will deviate as they learn to walk either toed out or toed in. The first trim will square the toe and remove the pointed part helping the foal gain correct leg conformation.
This is What Happens When You Don’t Trim a Horse’s Hooves – Common Hoof Problems
When you don’t trim your horse’s hooves regularly, these following hoof-related health issues will pop up anytime soon in your horse’s life.
No Trimming or Poor Shoeing
- No trimming results in collapsed heels and long overgrown toes.
- Overgrown hooves inflict strains on flexor tendons and the navicular bone.
- Horses that don’t get a regular farrier visit could also have long heels and short toes.
- Untrimmed horses often struggle with coffin bone and joint injuries and pain.
- An untrimmed horse is unbalanced.
- No trimming places extra stress on supporting ligaments.
Hoof Cracks – Blowout
Blowout hoof cracks result from no trimming or intermitted trimming with long intervals.
Causes for Blowout cracks
- Frequent weather changes from dry to wet weather can cause cracks in untrimmed hooves.
- Long trimming intervals and long toes cause cracks.
- Some horses have a genetic disposition to poor hoof growth due to brittle and poor hooves.
To treat blowout cracks, apply hoof moisturizer to the sole and hoof wall during:
- Hot, dry weather.
- Anytime your horse has cracks or brittle hooves.
- Trim your horse’s hooves frequently.
Always feed good quality hay and grain and offer hoof supplements to improve hoof growth and health.
Horizontal Blowouts and Cracks
Horizontal blowouts happen when an injury occurs to the coronary band or a hard blow to the hoof wall. This generally doesn’t cause lameness for the horse. However, it can deteriorate if not seen by a farrier.
Grass Cracks – Vertical crack
Grass cracks form vertically in the horse’s hoof wall and originate from the ground surface. Grass cracks are a common feature in untrimmed horses.
Sand Cracks – Coronary band
Sand cracks happen when an injury around the coronary band occurs or when white line disease occurs at the coronary band. A Sand crack can cause lameness in your horse.
To treat Sand and grass cracks, do the following:
- Patch the crack and trim the hoof.
- A farrier should float the hoof wall by not letting it bear weight.
- A crack will be visible for a while because it typically takes around 9 months for a hoof to grow out.
Thrush is an infection that occurs around the horse’s frog, and it happens when a horse is standing or living in a damp, moist, dirty stable without good hoof care and cleaning for extended periods.
Thrush gets into sensitive tissues of the hoof and causes severe lameness. Prevent thrush by keeping your horse on a regular trim routine and frequently cleaning the stables and barn. Always keep the bedding dry.
Treat thrush this way
Keep your horse in a clean, dry stable. The hoof should be cleaned thoroughly and any necrotic debris removed.
Cut down to healthy tissue, letting air reach any remaining infected tissue. Scrub the hoof and frog area with dilute iodine solution every day.
Keep your horse in a clean, dry stall and clean and treat the hoof until the infection is controlled and the hoof is healed.
A solar abscess occurs when an infection forms in the sole of the hoof. A Solar abscess can cause sudden and severe lameness in your horse.
- Remove any foreign bodies in the hoof.
- Soak the hoof in warm Epsom saltwater.
- Keep the hoof bandaged, clean, and dry until the abscess has drained and healed.
Street Nail – Foreign object
A street nail is a foreign object that enters your horse’s hoof. Immediately call your veterinarian if your horse has stepped on a foreign object or street nail.
Laminitis and Founder
Laminitis is an extremely painful and frequently recurrent hoof condition in horses. Laminitis affects the tissues bonding the hoof wall to pedal bone in the horse’s hoof.
Swelling can cause the coffin bone to sink downward and rotate within the hoof. There are several causes of laminitis.
- Regular trimming, shoeing, and farrier visits.
- Keeping the horse’s toes short with regular trimming.
- Regular farrier visits and trims will keep the frog and sole in good health, providing adequate support.
Navicular disease in horses results from inflammation and degeneration of the navicular bone and surrounding tissues in the horse’s front hooves.
The navicular disease will cause significant disabling lameness in a horse. Horses affected by navicular will usually step toe-first because of heel pain. Frequent farrier visits and trimming and inspections will help prevent navicular disease.
Navicular disease causes
- Hoof imbalance due to lack of trimming and hoof care.
- Exercising your horse on hard surfaces.
- A horse with poor conformation is prone to navicular disease.
Treat and prevent navicular disease with the following:
- Let a qualified farrier shoe your horse.
- Keep the toe short with trimming.
- A farrier should help elevate the horse’s heels.
- Pads will help alleviate pain and discomfort.
Prevention is Better than Cure
To prevent these hoof-related problems from occurring in your horse, it is essential to have a farrier visit your horse to regularly inspect and trim your horse’s hooves.
A farrier will ensure your horse stays sound and healthy. Many hoof problems occurring in horses are preventable with regular trimming.
- Always arrange regular trimming for your horse to prevent serious problems from occurring later.
- Provide treatment when any hoof problems occur.
- Always feed and maintain a healthy nutritional diet for your horse.
Hoof care is vital to a horse. Your horse needs regular trimming and should be seen by a professional farrier at least every six weeks for an inspection and good trim.
Equine hoof problems can be prevented with proper hoof care and management. We hope that we have answered your question about what happens when you don’t trim a horse’s hooves.