Tuesdays with Tony

Horse feet are weird, wonderful things, and it seems without them horses can’t do a thing. My Docs spend an unbelievable amount of time talking feet. You’d think as the thing they walk on, and depend on for life itself, they’d be better designed. However, if there is one thing I’ve learned being an official vet clinic cat, it’s that horses are not well designed. Let’s talk about how to keep those feet happy, and healthy. This seems particularly relevant as I watch the rain fall from Tropical Storm Cristobal. 

Quick aside: tropical storm, as in hurricane season, as in I tell you humans every year to be prepared! Go read my numerous blogs on this topic and actually be prepared. No power, fencelines down, tons of mosquitos, and no gas all add up to no fun. Not being prepared makes it even worse, and can endanger those horses you humans love so much. We now return to your regularly scheduled blog.

Daily Care

A good daily beauty regime is key. Everyone knows this. Moisturize, protect, and feed your skin well.  I’m pretty sure that’s how the Oil of Olay commercial goes. It’s not that different for horse feet. Step One is a good diet. Quality hay, and a concentrate that provides the vitamins, minerals, and proteins your horse needs sets the foundation for good feet. Did you notice what I didn’t mention? Hoof supplement. 99.9% of the time you don’t need one! It only makes your horse’s poop more expensive. Don’t make horses more expensive than they already are. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Moving on from food. Making sure your horse has a clean, dry place to put those feet with a minimum of flies will reduce moisture and cracking issues. In general, a horse hoof would prefer to be too dry rather than too wet. This time of year, that can be extremely difficult in Florida, home of the afternoon thunderstorm. I am so tired of rain. I have very important rounds to make, and I can’t do them in the rain! 

If possible, create a high and dry location under a shelter in your horse’s field, or bring them into a stall for some portion of the day so those feet can dry. Then be sure to clean those feet daily. All that wet mud packed in there doesn’t help feet dry out. After cleaning, you can apply products like ProCare Plus hoof dressing to help repel water. Yes, that’s right, I said repel water. If you live in a swamp, you need to repel, not moisturize. The problem is no product does this for long, but it’s a little bit of a help.

Dealing with Swamp Foot

We do get a few fun problems here because of all the wet weather. First let’s talk about what we affectionately call mushy foot around here. Mushy foot is pretty much what it sounds like. The bottom of the foot gets mushy. In particular, the area in front of the point of the frog and behind the toe gets really, really soft. These horses can look like they’re foundering because they’re so incredibly sore. Luckily this is an easy one. Durasole fixes them to like new in just a day or two. This is a liquid sole paint. You literally paint the affected sole and it dries it out.

Next we’ve got thrush. There are many reasons for thrush beyond swampy weather. In fact, the most common reason is a foot that isn’t being balanced correctly leading to abnormal loading of the frog. For those, I highly recommend a small group party at your next farrier visit. My vets can shoot x-rays, your farrier can use those to fix imbalances, and the two together can discuss any other weirdness your horse has that’s causing problems. For just plain old, “his frog is gross thanks to wet weather,” I highly recommend Tomorrow Mastitis Ointment. Yeah, it was a leap for me as well. I wasn’t sure something for a cow’s udder was appropriate for a horse’s foot, but it turns out I was wrong. I’m not wrong often, so take note of the occasion. This stuff is cheap and readily available from most feed stores. A little dab every few days in the gross areas, and they’ll be good as new in no time!

Dang shoes will not stay on

Do not blame this on your farrier! Evaluate your horse’s feet first. This time of year the wet, then dry, then wet, then dry causes the feet to expand and contract repeatedly. This makes nails loose. You can’t keep wiggling the foot around the nail and not have it loosen. Frequent application of ProCare Plus can help. In fact, you can put it on before riding to help keep sweat away from nails, and after if needed to prevent bath water from causing problems. This plan works even if you only apply hoof dressing to the area right around the nails. Be sure to talk with your farrier about help with this as well. They may change nails, and where they’re placing them, use products at shoeing that can help keep moisture away from nails, or even glue shoes on!

Horses and their feet are a constant problem. A little daily care can go a long way during Florida’s wet summers!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Did you know my docs have a podcast with some local farriers? They cover all kinds of hoof stuff. You can check it out, along with about 50 other great podcasts, right here. And it’s free!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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