Hoof Nutrition Intelligence Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.

Below you will find Part 2 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.

Q: Do I need to do anything different during the winter months in regard to footcare for my horses?

By Kentucky Equine Research staff

A: A horse’s hooves grow all year long, but growth slows as cooler weather approaches, dropping from an average of about a 1/4-inch per month to half that rate in the winter.

Owners might think they don’t need to call the farrier as often during the winter, but regular hoof care is just as important during this season. Keeping the hooves trimmed and balanced will help prevent chipping and cracking, and a 4- to 6-week schedule will allow the hoof and pastern structures to stay at correct angles.

In the winter, farriers check for hoof bruises and abscesses caused by walking or running on rough, frozen ground. A horse with a serious sole bruise or abscess is usually visibly lame. Horses with minor hoof bruises usually only require time off from work, but a farrier or veterinarian will often need to treat an abscess by first locating the painful area and then cutting into the sole to relieve pressure and allowing pus to drain out. A shoe with a pad can be used to keep dirt away from the sole until the abscess heals.

Mud is a fact of life on most farms during the winter, and standing or walking in muddy areas can soften hooves by allowing them to absorb too much moisture. Owners and barn managers may be able to alleviate mud to some extent.

Steps to minimize muddy conditions include placing hay in different areas of the pasture, adding raised pads of fine gravel around water troughs and installing permeable geofabric in high-traffic areas such as gates.

The decision to leave horses shod or barefoot through the winter can be made based on what the horse will be asked to do during the season. Performance horses that are given a training break may not need shoes, while horses that are kept in work or that have therapeutic shoes will probably stay shod through the winter. Regardless of whether they’re shod or not, all horses should have their hooves picked out and inspected daily, and should be trimmed on a regular basis year-round.

Add a research-proven hoof supplement to your horse’s diet to support the growth of healthy, strong hooves. Such supplements can promote and maintain healthy hooves from the inside out and aid in the development of a strong hoof wall, especially through the harsh elements of winter.

Kentucky Equine Research (KER) is an international equine nutrition, research and consultation company serving both the horse producer and the feed industry. Its goal is to advance the industry's knowledge of equine nutrition and exercise physiology and apply this knowledge to produce healthier, more athletic horses.

Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine). Absorbine

Like many significant achievements, Absorbine® grew out of humble beginnings—and through the tenacity of someone willing to question the status quo. In this case, it was a young woman in late 19th-century Massachusetts: Mary Ida Young. Her husband, Wilbur Fenelon Young, was an enterprising piano deliveryman who relied on the couple’s team of horses to make deliveries throughout the Northeast. Inspired by Mary Ida and Wilbur’s vision, Absorbine® has continued to add innovative products throughout the years — products used every day by horse owners around the world. Which is why, since 1892, we’ve been The Horse World’s Most Trusted Name®.

Click here to read Part 1 of the December 1, 2016 installment: My farrier says one of my horses might benefit from being fed a joint supplement. How do I decide which one to use?

Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.