Winter vs. Summer Hooves
Did you know that your horse's hooves change throughout the seasons? Even through the summer months, they may differ dramatically according to the region and the weather in that region.
In the summer, the hooves grow rapidly but can also wear rapidly according to the environment and horse's movement. The hooves are also more moist and retain more moisture than in the winter months.
In winter time, the hoof growth generally slows down and the hooves don't need as much trimming as they would during the warmer months. The hooves dry out and simply do not retain as much moisture as they do during the summer months.
This means that you are dealing with different hooves depending on the seasons as well as the general weather of that particular season.
Drier weather means dryer and smaller hooves.
Wetter weather means wetter, faster-growing and slightly larger hooves.
In Florida USA, I noticed that during the winter time, the hooves did slow their growth but also gained tremendous toughness due to the lack of rain. In fact, my horses' hooves got so tough that even a brand new pair of the best nippers available could not cut through the thick, incredibly hard hooves. But, come the rainy season and the hooves became like butter. Not only in texture and strength but they also grew faster and were more wider and larger than in the winter months.
In the winter months in New England USA, it is cold and the ground is frozen solid. My horse's hoof growth has slowed down and their hooves have gotten hard. They are rounding off their walls and the frogs have become dry and hard. Although, I know once there is snow on the ground, the moisture will soften up the frogs somewhat, but somehow the hooves will still remain hard and will not grow as fast as they do in the spring and summer (even if the autumn/fall months are rainy).
In Australia, there are regions where it is tropical-like in the summer and then, at the same time, it is dry and arid in another area of the country. Hooves will grow more rapidly, as stated, during these summer months but will wear differently according to the environment. This is the same in the US. Growth rates and wear will vary between tropical and dry or temperate areas. I also have to add, that this is not necessarily just in the summer time but is applicable year-round.
When I've needed to boot my horses with hoof boots, I've needed to be sure I have two sizes for the one horse; one size for winter time and one larger size for summer time.
It is important to measure your horses for hoof boots just after trimming.
Of course, if you measure an overgrown hoof, then the boot will simply be too large once the hooves are properly trimmed.
Australian summers are very hot, while in Tasmania the rainfall varies greatly according to the region of the island, I can surmise that the horses there are beginning to grow their hooves more rapidly than in the last 6 months and will probably expand in size. Softer, wetter ground means the hooves will not be wearing down as much, and they will begin to develop softer walls, frogs and soles, that simply just do not wear the same as they do on hard, dry ground. Those in dry, arid areas will see hooves growing more rapidly and also, wearing differently than at other times of the year.
So what does this all mean in terms of booting your horses with hoof boots?
Unless your horse lives on the same type of terrain on which it is ridden regularly, you probably need to think seriously about using hoof boots on your horses during your rides, simply to protect your horse's hooves. You may find that the same boots your horse wore in the winter time, are not going to fit well during the summer months, simply because of the differing expansion and growth of the more moisture-laden hooves at this time of the year. Wearing hoof boots more frequently during the summer months also means that fungi and bacteria will be more prevalent and, as such, it is important to regularly inspect the hooves for infections and treat accordingly. It's also a good idea to 'disinfect' your horse's hoof boots regularly.
Weather, seasons and terrain are not the only factors in the development and growing of hooves. Of course we know that what goes into the horse grows out through the hooves. Feeding a horse as close as possible to a 'natural' feed is going to produce harder, tougher hooves than feeding a lot of highly processed and sweetened feeds. All of my clients who have switched their horses to an all raw forage diet have noticed that, regardless of seasons, their horses' hooves become like 'cement' in just a couple of months; hard, tough, and incredibly strong. They've also noticed that the more they ride, the more their hooves remain balanced and do a good job of trimming themselves with just a bit of 'tweaking' needed each month or so.
If your horse is stalled on bedding or sand and the horse does not get enough movement, even with a good diet and proper trimming, the hooves will show the lack of movement with imbalanced growth and a lack of conditioning. It is important to see that the horse gets as much exercise as needed and wanted. This will affect the growth of new hooves, too. During the wet months, the hooves will fluctuate greatly in moisture content from going out to wet ground then coming back into the stall where the moisture is, literally, sucked out of the hooves rapidly by the bedding. This also affects how the hooves grow.
So, all these factors play into the overall health, form and function of your horse's hooves. Once again, you will, most likely, have differing hooves in differing climates and seasons that may require you to have two sets of hoof boots for your horse. One set in size 'summer' and one size in size 'winter'!
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 hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in NE Connecticut and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here: www.thepenzancehorse.com