As the calendar turns to March, the alternating freeze-thaw conditions can result in a host of foot problems, particularly for backyard horses.

Feet marinate in wet and muddy pastures during the day only to experience hard ground overnight.

“Then these horses that have soggy, dish-raggy feet are suddenly on frozen ground,” says Heidi Larrabee, a farrier who works in and around Palmer, Alaska, 45 minutes north of Anchorage. “They’re walking on eggshells because they’ve gone from one extreme to the other.”

When rain-softened feet move onto the frozen ground, Larrabee sees a lot of bruising, “which may or may not turn into abscesses,” she says. Larrabee also sees plenty of hoof chips and splits, and the wet conditions can bring on cases of white line disease.

To combat these common back­yard horse problems, Larra­bee tries to get her clients involved hands-on with their horses.

To help prevent thrush, “I tell all my clients that the most effective tool against thrush is a simple hoof pick. I recommend that they start some kind of routine, like at a feeding time, so that it won’t get overlooked. That way it gets done on a regular basis,” Larrabee says.

About 75% of the horses she tends to are kept barefoot, “So there’s a certain amount that I feel the horse owners should be able to do,” she says. “If they see a chip, they should be able to put a rasp to it. Involving owners a little bit more gives them an appreciation for what I do while making my job a little bit easier.”

Although she concedes it might cut into her farrier business, showing horse owners some basic hoof-care techniques can help maintain their horses’ feet between her visits.

“That way, the horses aren’t as bad by the time I get back to them,” she says. “I know they love their animals, and I build rapport with the owners because I’m trying to help them through a tough time.”

For more helpful tips, read “Strategies To Avoid Backyard Horse Issues” in the January/February 2018 issue of American Farriers Journal.