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Those who own horses know that trimming a horse’s hooves is an important part of care. Without regular trimmings, hooves can become overgrown, leading to various problems.
Regular hoof care is key to keeping horses sound and healthy. So, this begs the question: how do wild horses trim their hooves?
In the wild, there are no farriers that come out to trim the hooves of horses. However, you do not often see wild horses with overgrown hooves.
In fact, most wild horses have relatively healthy hooves and are able to cover long distances without soundness issues.
Wild horses maintain their hooves by traveling many miles a day over various terrains. By traveling long distances over a variety of surfaces, wild horses are able to naturally wear down their hooves.
In the wild, horses may travel up to 20 to 30 miles a day. Oftentimes, wild horses will travel across rough terrain which further contributes to wearing their hooves down. This active lifestyle keeps their hooves at a healthy length.
Domestic horses typically don’t move enough in a day to wear down their hooves naturally to a healthy level. They often spend most of their time in grass pastures or stalls, not roaming across miles of rugged terrain.
As a result, it is necessary for domestic horses to receive regular hoof care.
It does not hurt a horse to trim a hoof if it is done properly. The exterior layer of a horse’s hoof is made from keratin, the same protein that human fingernails are made from. So, just as trimming your fingernails doesn’t hurt, neither does trimming a horse’s hoof.
Trimming a domesticated horse’s hooves is necessary to keep them sound and healthy. If a hoof becomes overgrown, it affects the tendons and ligaments of the legs. As a result, a horse may become unbalanced or lame.
Horses need their hooves trimmed every six to eight weeks, with some horses needing it done as often as every four weeks. A farrier will use special tools to safely trim the excess growth from a horse’s hooves.
A farrier will carefully trim the hoof to the proper angle to create a balanced hoof. This allows the horse to move better and have less stress on their bones, tendons, and ligaments.
It is very important that your horse receives regular trimmings from a farrier. Since domesticated horses don’t wear their hooves down like wild horses, they will keep growing to unhealthy lengths. Regularly trimming can also help prevent chipping and cracks in the hoof.
Horseshoes can be used for a variety of different reasons. They can provide horses with additional support and protection, correct imperfections, and improve performance.
Horseshoes can help give horses better traction in different terrains and weather. In addition, they can protect horses from hard surfaces such as rocky terrains, pavement, and other rugged surfaces.
Shoeing can also help correct conformation faults, improve balance, and help prevent injury. It can also help provide additional support to horses with laminitis, arthritis, or ringbone.
Many show horses will wear horseshoes to help them stay at the top of their game. Shoeing and the type of horseshoes used can vary based on the discipline a horse is competing in to achieve their maximum performance capabilities.
For example, racehorses often wear aluminum shoes that provide traction while being lightweight, and shoes with studs may be used in cross country to prevent slipping in mud or slick surfaces.
While many horses can benefit from being shod aka wearing horseshoes, others can benefit from being unshod aka barefoot. Many horses with lighter workloads and/or stronger, naturally healthy feet can do just fine barefoot.
It is best to discuss with your farrier and trainer if your horse will benefit from having shoes or being barefoot.
Also read: Do Horseshoes Hurt Horses?
Horse hooves are complex structures, consisting of many different parts. To make things simpler, the hoof can be broken up into three categories: outside, inside, and underside.
In order to ensure a horse has healthy feet it is important to understand the different aspects that make up the hoof. Knowing the basics is important if you are a horse owner.
The outside of the hoof includes the hoof wall, coronary band, periople, and inner wall or laminar layer. The hoof wall is the hard outer covering of the hoof that protects the structures within. It is made of keratin and can be black or white depending on the individual horse.
The coronary band is located at the top of the hoof where the hairline meets the hoof. It is a tough structure and contains a large blood supply.
The periople is a small band of soft tissue below the coronary band. The inner wall is the support of a multitude of leaf-like laminae, which attach the inside of the hoof wall to the coffin bone.
The underside of the hoof contains the sole, frog, central sulcus, and bars. The sole of the hoof is slightly concave, meaning it mostly does not have contact with the ground. Within the sole is the white line, which is the area that contributes to sole protection.
The frog is the V-shaped structure on the underside of the hoof. It protects the digital cushion beneath it, as well as aiding in the traction and circulation of the hoof. In addition, it partly acts as a shock absorber when the horse moves.
The central sulcus is the groove found on either side of the frog. It is the location where bacteria can harbor, leading to problems such as thrush. The bars of the hoof extend from the heels and are key in preventing contracted heels.
The inside of the hoof consists of the digital cushion, coffin bone, and navicular bone. The digital cushion of the hoof sits below the coffin bone and functions as a shock absorber of the hoof.
In the hoof, the coffin bone is encapsulated by the hoof, sitting at the bottom of the bone. It is the largest bone in the hoof that helps shape the hoof itself.
The navicular bone sits behind the coffin bone and the short pastern bone. Its purpose is to allow the large deep digital flexor tendon to smoothly run across the back of the hoof to the pedal bone.