Keeping your elderly horse comfortable and fit is key to ensuring him a happy retirement. Although senior horses may need help to stay active if they are struggling with sore feet, laminitis or arthritis. Here is how hoof boots can aid your aging horse during 24/7 turnout and help him remain happy and active in his golden years.
By Helle Maigaard Erhardsen
Exactly as with us humans, exercise and movement is the best way to keep age-related disorders at bay. Like aging humans, older horses tend to lose muscle mass, become less flexible, be prone to arthritis and absorb essential nutrients less efficiently. Additionally, a deteriorating immune system will make it harder for senior horses to fight infections and recover from illnesses.
However, movement and appropriate exercise can help prevent or postpone all of the above age-related issues. Movement lubricates your aging horse’s joints and increases his blood circulation, which is essential to distribute nutrients and oxygen around his body. Gentle exercise will help him maintain his ligament and muscle strength and strengthen his immune system.
Although in order to encourage movement in your older horse, he first needs to be comfortable so movement doesn’t cause him pain. In the following, we will learn how Vince Ray from New Zealand is using Scoot Boots to relieve the pain from laminitis, arthritis and splintering, flat hooves in his senior horses.
The retired racehorse Suzie enjoys the comfort of protective Scoot Boots during turnout in his paddock. Regular hoof care is just as important for your senior horse as he won’t be wearing his feet as much as when he was ridden.
The Right Hoof Boots can Aid your Senior Horse 24/7
In rural Auckland, New Zealand, Vince Ray lives with his herd of eight horses - a fantastic bunch of individuals, as he says. Two of these horses are retirees and have been struggling with each their health issues. Although Vince has carefully pieced together aids like balanced, supportive diets and corrective trimming, something was still missing to help his two aging geldings be more comfortable moving around in their home environment.
Protective, shock absorbing hoof boots have proven to ease the pain from a wide range of hoof conditions such as thin soles, navicular and laminitis, and make even the most sensitive horse comfortable enough to stride through rocks and gravel. However, one thing is to use hoof boots during rehabilitation or on challenging trail rides, another thing is to leave them on 24/7 during turnout in your horses paddock.
Rightly, Vince was concerned about leaving hoof boots on his horses during turnout for many hours at a time. Some hoof boots with poor ventilation, such as the ones that are fully enclosed, are likely to trap dirt and heat, which can increase the risk of thrush and other hoof infections. However, hoof boots from Scoot Boots have superior ventilation and drains away any debris and water that could otherwise get caught inside the boot.
“Admittedly, I was skeptical about leaving hoof boots on for the better part of the day. I expected there to be at least some amount of chafing. However, there's been none of that with either horses. The hoof boots have been a really good addition to their day to day life and maintenance of their health and comfort,” Vince said.
As with any tack, it’s important to regularly check that your turnout hoof boots fit and is comfortably in place. However, should your horse unexpectedly throw a boot in the paddock, rest assured there’s no nails, wires or hard metal in Scoot Boots that can hurt him.
Help your Retired Horse Relieve Joint Pain and Laminitis with Hoof Boots
Some time ago, one of Vince’s senior horses started to develop laminitis. Although this is a severe and utterly painful disorder, Vince responded quickly with corrective trimming and let Cam wear his Scoot Boots 24/7 to relieve the pain, and slowly Cam was able to regain his soundness.
However, at the age of 28, Cam is like many other elderly horses also suffering from arthritis. As such, his Scoot Boots are still a vital part of his well-being to help him be more comfortable. According to Vince, Cam’s less flexible joints tends to make him drag his feet and in doing so, he collects grass, earth and manure, that builds up into a quartet of filth stilettos:
“In the fashion world this would make Cam a trend setter but in the real world, all it makes him is uncomfortable and susceptible to thrush. Alongside a diet high in omega 3 fatty acids and gentle exercise, wearing Scoot Boots in the paddock has been the perfect solution,” Vince said.
Joints that become affected by arthritis will become stiff and tender, which worsens with age. Protective hoof boots can help relieve the concussion that goes up through the horse’s body, when he stands and walks on hard and uneven ground. To maximize the shock absorbing properties of your hoof boots you can add extra pads inside the boots.
Vince Ray’s lil’ orange grandpapa - Cam, a 28 year old Welsh x Timor pony.
Hoof Boots Protects Splintering Hooves and Flat Hoof Soles
Vince’s other retired horse, the off-the-track Thoroughbred Suzie, has a decent list of health conditions to his name of which some are chronic. According to Vince, this is due to less than favorable living conditions in his previous “homes”. Suzie’s gut has lasting damage and his feet suffer greatly from his reduced ability to absorb and metabolize essential nutrients.
The years of detrimental hoof care practices Suzie was subjected to as a racehorse and some time beyond don’t help the situation either. Summertime is especially brutal to Suzie, as his flat hooves dry out and the hard ground makes them splinter:
“Wearing his Scoots in the field makes him so much more comfortable, improves his posture, and reduces the amount of splintering of his hooves. Certainly an extremely important piece in the 5,000 piece puzzle that is Suzie, and he's all the happier for it,” said Vince.
Horses that have been shod with metal shoes throughout their working lives, may not need shoeing anymore once they are turned out to enjoy their well deserved retirement. However, keep in mind that it can take some time for the horse to transition to barefoot, especially when your horse has reached that age, where everything takes longer to recover from. In this case, using supportive hoof boots would be the ideal solution to keep your senior horse comfortable when his shoes have been pulled for retirement.
OTTB Suzie can be a bit of a mission to keep comfortable, according to Vince.
Help your Horse to a Happy and Active Retirement
As already mentioned, keeping active and fit is vital for the well-being of your senior horse. Although his riding and working days may be over, there are still many ways to keep your horse both mentally and physically active for as long as possible. This could be groundwork exercises, taking your horse for a stroll in the bush or some gentle stepping over poles and other activities on an obstacle course.
Or, you can do like Vince, who much enjoys playing with his horses at liberty. He uses a mix of clicker training and environmental constraints to design movement challenges, puzzles and fun activities for the horses. According to Vince, this style of non-forceful work is suitable for just about any horse to build confidence, improve movement function and fitness and not least to boost their joy for life.
“I’ve got a big love for modern movement & motivation science. I went off the deep end about 5 years ago when rehabbing a very shut-down Suzie and never looked back. Helping horses thrive and not just survive ain't always a simple task, but seeing them rediscover the horse they want to be makes one feel all warm and fuzzy inside y'know,” said Vince.
Vince and Suzie playing at liberty for fun, exercise and mental wellness!
| About the author
Helle Maigaard Erhardsen is an investigative journalist specialising in environmental issues. Her devotion to the outdoors includes a life long passion for horses of which she has two: Pannigan, an off-the-track Thoroughbred and Audrey, a Shetland pony, who are both bitless and barefoot. Helle is born in Denmark, where she graduated from the Danish School of Media and Journalism in 2015. Her work is characterised by comprehensive research and she was nominated for the special media award Bording Prisen for her investigative reporting with the newspaper Ing.dk. She later obtained a Master’s degree in Journalism, Media and Communication from UTAS, when she relocated to Tasmania.