One thing I've noticed as an EP is how much of a difference the owners' approach to hoof hygiene makes to the overall health of the hoof.
Most of us were taught that we should pick out our equines' hooves twice daily, and although I can't in all honesty say that I manage that strict a regime, I do agree that hooves should be picked out ideally everyday.
Why? Well the obvious answer is to check for any problems within the hoof and dig out any stones lurking - my great big cobs tend to get massive stones stuck in the collateral grooves (either side of the frog) which could cause bruising if left), but there's also the nasty little matter of thrush.
Most of us know that thrush loves anaerobic conditions and presents as a white powdery substance on the frog. Thrush poo is the black slimy substance we see. We have become very accustomed to thrush and many of us think it's nothing to worry about. True, pretty much every equine will suffer from thrush during their lifetime, but the worrying thing is that little word 'suffer'. Much of the time, a little bit of thrush doesn't seem to bother the horse, but occasionally it can cause untold damage and pain. You see, the problem comes when a little bit of thrush turns into a central sulcus infection. Or gets out of hand and starts to infect the sole.
The central sulcus is meant to be a diamond shaped dip in the frog, but when the frog becomes atrophied and the heels are contracted this dip becomes a slit and a lovely hotel for thrush. There is a lovely video on facebook of one of my colleagues cleaning a central sulcus https://www.facebook.com/helen.stowell.58/videos/10154591956703832/
So, what should we be doing to help keep our horses feet healthy? Obviously, a good diet and an environment as clear of faeces as possible (poo is the fastest way to rot a hoof). Plenty of exercise because keeping the hoof moving as it is designed to stimulates it and encourages growth and good health. And keep checking it! If you don't have any thrush or white line disease, brilliant! Just pick the feet out regularly to keep an eye on things. If you do have problems with the above, don't panic!
1/ Develop a regular hoof picking regime
2/ Invest in a bottle of Milton sterilising fluid, some red horse field paste/artimud/hoof stuff and a wire brush
3/ Teach your horse to stand with his foot in a bucket/soaking boot and twice a week soak the foot in DILUTED (1 cap:5l water) Milton for about 5-10 mins and then give a good scrub with a wire brush
4/ Apply Red Horse artimud or field paste to the white lines and frogs
If your horse has a central sulcus infection, follow 1-4 but add the flossing technique in the video and apply Red Horse Hoof Stuff pushed in to the central sulcus.
Central sulcus infections can be fixed in weeks when treated properly.
Never put anything on your horse that you wouldn't wash your hands in (hydrogen peroxide/Stockholm tar) and definitely don't put anything that could sting in an infected central sulcus - your horse would be absolutely within his rights to never let you near his feet again! If in doubt, check with your hoof care provider.
Happy hoof picking every one!