The old saying, "no foot, no horse," is literally true. Without sound hooves, a horse cannot lead a healthy, productive life. Still, this is the one area of horse care that is most frequently neglected.
In the wild, horses live on very rough terrain and move about constantly, thus keeping their feet in perfect condition. Keeping horses in stalls or on soft, grassy pasture allows their feet to grow faster than moving about wears them down. For these reasons, we must trim our horses' feet regularly. Horses and ponies that wear shoes must been seen by a farrier (horse-shoer) more frequently than barefoot horses. Shod horses should have their hooves trimmed and their shoes reset by the farrier every six weeks; barefoot horses should have their hooves trimmed every eight weeks. Whether shod or barefoot, horses should have their feet picked out every day. Dirt and mud can become compacted inside a hoof, trapping pebbles or debris against the sole and causing painful bruises on the sole of the foot.
Nearly all domestic horses are candidates for "thrush." This unpleasant condition causes horses feet to become soft and grainy, and creates a foul-smelling black discharge from the foot. Avoid thrush by keeping your horse's stall dry and by picking out his feet at least once a day (or before and after you ride); this should keep the condition at bay. If your horse does develop thrush, you will need to redouble your efforts to keep his feet dry and clean. Many topical treatments are available at feed and tack stores; these will clear up a mild case of thrush if applied daily. More severe cases will require your veterinarian's or farrier's attention.
A horse's teeth grow continually during its lifetime.As they become longer, uneven wear can cause sharp points that can affect the way your horse or pony processes its feed. If a horse's food is not chewed properly, it will not be digested and the horse will begin to lose weight. It is important to have your veterinarian check your horse's teeth once a year. If sharp points have developed, your veterinarian can file them down. This process is called floating the teeth. For horses in serious training or even the pleasure horse that is ridden regularly, a "performance float" is recommended. This involves rounding the the horse's teeth in the area where they may come in contact with the bit.
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