Winter Care

In snowy areas of the country, decide how you are going to use your horse for the winter. If your horse has healthy hooves and you aren't going to be riding on icy, snowy ground or on roads, consider removing the shoes for the winter. Shoes can be problematic because ice and snow ballsup inside the shoe, causing the horse to slip.

Bad tendon and leg problems can occur with ice in the hooves, so many people choose to pull the shoes. But if your horse can't go without them, you might want to consider snow pads.

Snow pads come in two styles, a rim pad, which has a hollow tube full of air that sits inside the rim of the shoe and pushes the snow out as the horse moves; or a popper, which is a full rubber or plastic snowball pad with an inverted cup that pops the snow out as the horse walks.

For extra traction on snow and ice, duratrac horseshoe nails with a carbide tip or welded-on borium taps will help prevent slipping. However, you need to be careful with borium taps. If you have a kicker in the herd he can do a lot of damage with taps on the back hooves.

Horses shed their frogs (the dark, rubbery, v-shaped structure on the sole of the hoof) as least twice a year, usually in spring and fall, so this is a good time to be on the lookout for thrush, a foul-smelling, tarry black substance that can rot the frog and cause lameness. Thrush can be treated with an over-the-counter medication available at feed and tack stores. When horses shed their frog, a pocket or groove can develop and bacteria can get into those areas so it's important for your farrier to remove the old frog. Thrush can get into the heel bulbs, too, and you can't really see it, but you can smell it. You can gently clean the crevice between the bulbs with a Popsicle stick and follow behind with your thrush treatment.

Thrush can be prevented with good horsekeeping. The bacterium that causes thrush thrives in wet and unsanitary conditions, so stalls should be clean and dry, and hooves should be picked out on a daily basis, year round.

In the summer when ground can become sun-baked and hard, shoe your horse if you're planning on doing a lot of trail riding or showing. In some of the drier parts of the country, the ground can get really hard, and soles can get bruised, so you might ask your farrier about using pads or a shock-absorbing hoof pack called Equithane, which can be used with or without a pad. It pretty much turns a horse shoe into a tennis shoe.