March 28, 2017

Environmental Factors: Ground Surfaces and How They Affect Hoof Health

The surface a horse stands on can have a considerable impact on its hoof health. Depending on trimming procedures and how active a horse is, a horse’s hooves can change and may require extra attention. If neglected, a horse may experience sole deterioration or other harmful consequences. To maintain optimal hoof health, it is important for horse owners to consider the terrain a horse lives on (i.e. gravel, sandy or grassy ground) to avoid injuries or infections.

How a Hard Stomping Grounds Impact Hooves

Because changing terrains have a different impact on the sole, examining how a horse’s home turf affects its hooves is crucial when looking at overall hoof health. For example, on abrasive surfaces, such as sand or gravel, horses can experience faster wear in hooves due to the coarse ground. The grainy surface promotes faster wear in the sole, and soles may become bruised or raw if they wear too thin. If these environmental factors go unconsidered, a horse can develop an injury or even lameness.

Proper trimming can also work with ground surface to impact hooves. If soles are too thin from over-trimming, or if a horse is predisposed to thin soles, a hard, abrasive ground like gravel can deteriorate the sole even further as opposed to allowing the sole to grow. Soles protect and help support the horse’s hoof, thus it’s vital they are maintained and examined thoroughly to determine a sole-maintaining regimen. If the rough ground causes lameness or sole bruising in a horse, extra materials may be necessary in order to nurse a horse’s feet back to health.

Pour-in pads can be a helpful way to protect the remaining sole that’s left and allow more sole to grow. When the soles are sealed off with pour-in pad material, they have a better chance of retaining thickness and re-growing. Depending on the moisture in a horse’s environment, there are different pour-in pad materials that can be beneficial. Vettec Equi-Pak is soft enough that it will not irritate the sensitive area if the horse is lame. Equi-Pak is fast-setting, soft pad material that bonds directly to the sole and frog, and improves the depth of the sole. Equi-Pak CS is also a fast-setting soft instant pad material, and is infused with copper sulfate to eliminate the chance of bacteria getting trapped within the hoof, which is common in moist environments. Equi-Pak CS provides extra protection and support during wet seasons, and also bonds to the sole to protect it from abrasion so that soles can continue to regrow.

Managing Hooves in Grassy Terrain

While an abrasive ground is a common home for a horse, some horses may spend most of their time in soft grass, where the hooves can grow at a normal pace without constant rubbing of the rough terrain. However, grassy environments cause horses to become more susceptible to laminitis and founder because of the sugar content in the grass they are eating. Laminitis is an inflammation of the lamina located inside the hoof. The anatomy of the hoof is such that the insensitive lamina is attached to the hoof wall and the sensitive lamina is attached to the coffin bone. In the event of hoof trauma, the inflammation and reduction of blood flow can cause partial or total separation of the lamina, allowing the coffin bone to rotate downward. Laminitis can show up as subtle lameness in the front feet, external bruising in the sole or White Line Disease. When this happens, the experience can be compared to pulling off your fingernail in an accident.  

When laminitis occurs, it is important for horse owners to tend to the soles quickly and effectively as to not cause any more pain in their horse. Products like Equi-Pak offer a versatile solution that is easy to apply, sets quickly and produces a soft, resilient supportive pad material. This will help relieve the internal stress within the hoof capsule and support the boney column, providing a speedier recovery.

Although ground surface isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to routine care, it can directly impact a horse’s hooves. Whether galloping on hard gravel, or grazing through the grass, horses need routine maintenance and extra support to maintain good overall health.

Talk with your farrier or veterinarian about your horse’s environment, and how pour-in pad materials can be a helpful tool to maintain healthy hooves on any ground surface.