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Caution: Wet Hooves Can Cause Problems

Submitted by: Tanner Farms
Phone: 2404014856
Email Address: tannerfarms(at)
Date Added: 1/22/2017

The good news this winter is that it has been pretty mild. I have rarely worn my coat or insulated coveralls, and I haven't shoveled any snow. The problem is that it never seems to stop raining; it seems to rain just about every other day and I can't remember the last time I've seen a sunny day. It has gotten so bad the past month that we've had to postpone a bunch of hay deliveries because we can't get the truck through a customer's pasture or paddock. We've gotten stuck a several times now, good thing they make four wheel drive tractors and we've ran into helpful neighbors.

Okay, so for those of us here in the tri-state area of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, we know it's muddy; it's obvious. We come in from the field or the barn many times with soaking wet and muddy boots. So imagine what your horses are experiencing when they are in the wet and muddy pastures and paddocks for hours at a time. Sure, there is probably (hopefully) access to a run-in shed or the barn close by, but it's likely damp and musty in there too - it's hard to hide from a hundred percent humidity and constant rain and drizzle.

The constant exposure to wet and muddy ground by a horse can easily lead to poor hoof quality just as poor nutrition can contribute to the same. While the spring is often wet, there is usually enough sun and heat to dry things out so we don't have as great a risk. Seems we have a perfect storm this year - wet and muddy and it never gets cold enough to freeze the ground solid. And because a horse's hoof is porous, it will absorb the excess moisture from constantly being exposed to this wet muddy environment. Too much of anything usually leads to problems; too much absorbed moisture can negatively affect hoof quality. When the hoof is regularly exposed to these excessively wet conditions, it absorbs too much water and can get soft and weak. Soft hooves can lead to lameness since it cannot support the horse's own weight, shoes have a tendency to come off more easily, abscesses can develop, and wet hooves are more prone to bacterial and fungal infections.

When we experience conditions such as these super wet conditions this year, we need to be vigilant and practice some basic preventative steps. While the hoof may look healthy, an excessively moist hoof swells to the point where cracks are hard to spot. Within these cracks, however, is where the bacteria and fungus creep in. Keep an eye out for a horse limping or other indication of lameness - inspect the hooves keeping an eye out for discoloration, puss or other substance coming from the hoof, a rancid foul smell from the hoof. There may also be some swelling on the horse's leg that has an infected hoof.

Some basic preventative steps we can take are: to routinely of picking out the horse's hooves; providing a clean and dry stall with a moisture absorbent such as pine shavings, sawdust or shredded paper; provide a dry place for your horse to hang out, such as a run-in shed or add gravel to your paddock so the water can drain through the surface (gravel is cheap compared to a vet bill, you can get a dump truck load for $300 or so); don't use hoof moisturizers and dressings when not needed, and be sure to provide proper quality nutrition.

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