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Hoof-Care Email Q&A: Can you describe any hoof or foot problems that you encounter more often during the winter months?

Q: Can you describe any hoof or foot problems that you encounter more often during the winter months?

A: Scratches is the most prevalent problem farriers will see in winter shoeing. Scratches is an inflammation of the skin (dermatitis) on the back of the pastern.

It is caused by the retention of moisture, hair and/or mud on the back of the pastern area. Horses that are susceptible include those that live in a muddy environment, have long pastern hair, or horses that are bathed frequently without proper drying of the area behind the pastern.

Signs include varying degrees of lameness caused by the skin on the back of the pastern stretching in response to movement. The skin will be pink, inflamed and swollen, and the hair will fall out easily when pulled. Scabs will be present in later stages. A horse affected with an acute case of scratches may be difficult to shoe or trim because of the pain in stretching the pastern area.

Prevention is the best treatment. For clients whose horses will stand in muddy fields throughout the winter, it is best to shave the back of the pastern area prior to the first rain. Once established, the area should be treated with a shampoo obtained from a veterinarian. The prognosis is good with treatment.

— Bob Smith, Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School, Plymouth, Calif.

A: Bruising due to walking on frozen mud pastures and bruising due to ice and snowballs in the feet. Sometimes the heel bulbs get…

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