I've gotten a few "what can I do!?!?" questions lately about soggy hooves. Hooves on horses that stand in wet condition all the time.
I guess 'tis the season for some.
Last year, at this time, we lived in SW Florida. Talk about SOGGY ... ugh! It rained every day and sometimes just torrents of water would pour out of the skies. The ground was consistently wet, if not downright flooded.
I celebrated that wet.
I celebrated it because then I could actually trim my horses' hooves.
During the dry season, it would be DRY ... I mean, Red Alert dry. That meant the horses' hooves were like rock. Cement. The hardest substance one can think of. Even a brand new, top-of-the-line pair of nippers couldn't dent my horses' hooves. So they grew, and grew, and wore, and grew some more. They ended up, by "Rainy Season" to be very long-walled. BUT -- nary a chip or a crack or even a hint of a blemish occured on any one of those 16 hooves.
They were solid.
Actually, I LOVED their hooves at that point. The horse were more than sound and rocks, sand, gravel? - there was nothing they couldn't travel over in complete soundness.
But then came the rains. YAY! I could trim those overgrown, thick, solid walls down to a respectful length.
The rains came and continued to get more and more prolific. In SW Florida they have two seasons - the dry season and the wet season. I know some of you can relate to that. It rains e.v.e.r.y. day ... sometimes for just a 10 mins torrential downpour; sometimes for an hour's deluge or more.
It is W.E.T. down there in the "Rainy Season".
BUT -- then I could trim my horses' hooves.
Did they start to crack or peel or chip or separate? ... Nope.
To what do I contribute this wonder?
Movement, Diet, Lifestyle and Terrain.
You see, SW Florida is also made up of coral and sand and broken shells. The best abrasive ground one can think of.
Horses out 24/7 get to MOVE. All.they.want. And move, they do -- to graze the grass, the weeds, the palm fronds, the wild grapes and more.
This is LIFESTYLE and TERRAIN. (and diet, too.)
Their diet? Simple. I gave them good quality, 2nd cut grass hay as much as they wanted, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds almost every day (their favorite fruit was Mango and Watermelon or Cantelope and their favorite veggie was Squash.) Just a small amount of "salad" ... not buckets and buckets of it. They'd get their salad just once a day to supplement their hay and grazing. Sometimes they'd get oranges or pommelos and apples and domestic grapes along with handfuls of green, leafy lettuce and a sprinkling of fresh sprouts of some sort. They also loved bananas and sweet yams. OH! One other thing we were blessed to have on our farm was "Wild Purple Air Potatoes". Those thing were ... U.G.L.Y! But they were good. I'd throw out a few to the guys for them to find and munch on and they loved them! (I'd wash, peel and cut up some for our dinner, as well -- grilled? Yummmm!)
Seeds would be whatever seeds went with the daily vegetable. (We had beautiful "recycled" squash and melon growing in the gardens where we spread manure fertilizer) and sometimes I'd throw in a handful of black oil sunflower seeds. I usually always sprinkled Flax seed in to 'season' their "salad" and nuts would be what I had on hand - walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts, etc.
So, I'd mix a bunch of this stuff up in a 5 gallon bucket. Usually there was enough to give us maybe 4 gallons of mixed salad. THEN ... I'd simply add a dash of raw, apple cider vinegar, some coconut flakes or olive oil, mix everything up thoroughly and toss it out all over their feeding area in their turnout so the four critters could 'graze' their fresh, raw food as they wanted.
What did all this cause?
Strong, healthy, resilient, rock-crunching (well, coral crunching) hooves.
I detest toxins. I think we can all agree that they are nasty, nasty things with which many of us have to contend. So, the more organic, the fresher, the more "raw" grazing material I could give to my horses, the better. We didn't fertilize the field except with freshly dried manure; we didn't add any 'weed killers' as the grass was sufficient to keep the undesireables at bay for the most part. Plus, "weeds" to us aren't necessarily just 'weeds' to the horses but, instead, nutrient-packed goodness that is just what "mother nature' prescribes for healthy, 4-hooved critters! We also did not feed ANYTHING "processed". We use herbs (fresh if possible), essential oils, homeopathy and other non-toxic substances for general over-all health and wellness as well as for acute situations that need immediate attention.
So ... let's summarize here ...
What are the ingredients for HEALTHY, STRONG, SOUND hooves?
1. Movement. As much movement as the horse wants and can have.
2. Diet. Fresh, raw, organic goodies to add the vitamins and minerals the equine body needs for good, strong immune health.
3. Lifestyle. My guys have always lived in a herd environment. Outside 24/7 and allowed to come in to their dry shelter whenever they choose. (They could then dry out their hooves while resting in their shelter.) Interestingly enough, it is said that the hours of grazing should be regulated to early morning and late afternoon/evening. Well, I noticed that those were the exact hours my horses would graze. During the heat of the day, when the grass is most stressed and pushing those nasty fructans through their blades, the horses would be taking their rests in their shed. They seemed to know, instinctively, when it was 'safe' to graze and when it was not.
4. Terrain. Varied is best! Sand, rocks, gravel, grass, hard, soft ... allowing the horses to move over all sorts of ground helps to condition the hooves to be tough on any terrain! Just like you and I need to 'condition' our tootsies when spring finally arrives and we throw our shoes to the wind. The horses' hooves need 'conditioning' to be sound on all sorts of ground so a varied mix in their living area is a must for truly sound hooves.
While there are always going to be mitigating factors affecting the individual's hoof health it is always imperative to consider the way "mother nature" hardwired the horse and to mimic the environment and diet as closely as possible to what the HORSE needs ... naturally.
Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications including The Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoof care for the last 20 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. You can email to Gwen -- firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone in the US (774)-280-4227 NEW PHONE). For further information please click here: www.thepenzancehorse.com