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The Importance of Foot Care

Are you aware of the saying "no foot – no horse"? The majority of lameness problems have an origin in the feet; anything that has a harmful effect on the feet is painful for the horse and reduces its ability to work. You need to check all four feet daily; this includes picking them out, looking for injuries, and checking that the shoes are not loose. The feet must be checked regularly by a farrier and trimmed if necessary. If a shoe comes off, arrange for a farrier to visit as soon as possible. Never work a horse with only three shoes; it is better to remove the shoe on the other side to keep the pair of feet level.

In order to check the feet, you will first need to learn the proper way to lift the foot. First, it is best to tie up the horse or else it may try to walk away while you are attempting to lift its foot. When lifting a front foot, stand close to the horse’s shoulder, facing the tail. Place the hand nearest the horse on the animal’s shoulder, and move it down toward the leg. This motion lets the horse know that you are about to pick up its leg, so it won’t be startled by an otherwise sudden movement. Reach around the back of the horse’s leg, and then run your hand down the inside. Keep a light, but firm pressure on the leg. Press backward and upward on the back of the pastern to encourage the horse to lift its foot. If it does not, grip the pastern and pull the foot up and back. When the foot is lifted, support the leg by putting your hand around the hoof wall, with your palm against the inside wall. If you need to examine the foot or use a hoof pick, tilt the sole up.

The process with the hind legs is similar. Stand close to the horse’s flank, where it is hard for the horse to kick you. Run your nearest hand down its hindquarters. Bring your hand around to the front of the leg just below the stifle. Then run it down the inside of the lower leg, keeping a consistent pressure. Take hold of the fetlock. Squeeze it gently, and pull the joint upward and forward. This should encourage the horse to lift its foot off the ground. Raise the foot so that it is clear of the ground, but don’t lift it too high because you will throw off the horse’s balance, making it uncomfortable. Hold the foot steady by putting your other hand around the toe while you release your grip on the fetlock. Support the leg by taking hold of the toe from the inside with your original hand. Let the foot rest in your palm. You cannot tilt the hind foot as much as a front foot.

You should also be aware of the proper way to use a hoof pick. Pick out the feet at least twice a day, and check the foot at the same time for any disorders. Choose a hoof pick that is not too sharp. Clean the grooves beside the frog first, then the sole of the foot. Always work toward the toe to avoid damaging the frog or the horse’s leg if the pick were to slip. Remove all of the mud and debris, as well as any flaking horn.



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