Hoof Diseases in Horses

The hoof is a major part of a horse's wellbeing. Thus, if you've been around horse owners for some time, you will have heard the phrase "no hoof, no horse." It may sound simple, but it actually summarizes the hoof's importance to a horse. The horse is almost useless without healthy hooves.

The horse's hooves are strong. But, it doesn't mean they're problem-free. In fact, there are many common problems that afflict the hoof. There are also different causes for these problems.

For one, a conformation defect may put unnecessary strain on part of the hoof. There may also be an injury caused by a sharp object that has found its way through the hoof. Environmental issues may also cause hoof problems, the most common of which are severe moist conditions.

Common Horse Hoof Diseases and Problems

  • Abscesses

If you find your horse walking on three legs even when there's no visible or apparent injury, the culprit may be an abscess. The abscess may be due to bacteria or dirt that enters an opening in your horse's hoof. The condition can trigger a stronger pulse and swelling in the lower part of the leg.

To be sure, have a farrier or veterinarian diagnose the problem. Your horse will undergo a procedure to test the sensitivity of the bottom part of the foot. Once the vet or farrier determines the location of the abscess, he may scrape a part of the hoof for draining. Often, the horse will feel better in no time.

Horsewoman grooming hooves

Horsewoman Grooming Hooves

  • Thin Soles

Not all horses have the same sole sizes. A horse may be born with a thin sole. This may also be due to improper care. The sole provides protection to the coffin bone that fits inside a hoof capsule. The hoof capsule, in turn, is comprised of the sole, wall, and hoof frog. If a horse has a thin sole, bruising or a more severe coffin bone damage may happen.

If your horse has thin soles, you must shoe it carefully. This will help eliminate the problem due to the removal of excess sole when trimming. You can also add gel or a pad between the shoe and sole. This can help protect the sole and avoid injury to the coffin bone and hoof. It's also important to clean the hooves every day to get rid of rocks that can cause bruising and pain.

Healthy hooves make for happy horses

Healthy Hooves Make for Happy Horses

  • Thrush

While thrush is a common problem, you can lower its chances of happening by maintaining a clean living environment for your horse. You'll know if your horse has thrush because of the smell. A bad smell is a sign that bacteria has penetrated the hoof frog's grooves, and has infected the hoof. Another sign is a black discharge.

Keeping your horse's feet clean and dry will help treat thrush. There are also thrush treatment preparations that you can buy from horse supply shops. These medications don't require a vet's prescription. If you ignore the condition, it can lead to lameness and further hoof damage. Once lameness has set in, you'll have no more recourse but to call your veterinarian.

  • White Line Disease

Once you notice a separation in your horse's hoof wall, let your vet check for white line disease right away. Sometimes fungi and bacteria can enter the wall, making it crumble and turn white. If not treated right away, the disease can cause temporary or permanent lameness.

If you detect the onset of the disease early, you can treat it with topical medications. Then, your vet will cut the affected portion. If the case is severe, you can't turn out or ride your horse until the hoof has grown back.

Final Word

While these problems are common, they can cause a lot of pain and discomfort to the horse. But with proper maintenance and care, you can reduce the risk of hoof problems and diseases in your horse.