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Thoroughbreds as a breed tend to have pretty poor feet compared to other breeds, most likely due to being selectively bred for performance rather than conformation. However, those who have raced tend to have even worse feet. This is largely due to how they are shod while racing. While racing, most horses are shod more regularly than the typical horse, some as short as every two weeks, especially if they are racing in the next few days. Not only can this create more nail holes in the hoof wall, increasing the risk of cracking, it can also alter the quality of the hoof.
Typical Thoroughbred Feet
Typical thoroughbred feet have very little heel with a long toe. This is due to the fact that the toe in many thoroughbreds grows quicker than the heel. Which often leads to problems such as cracks in the front of the hoof, especially when the weather is dryer. Not only do thoroughbreds have worse shaped feet, the quality of the hoof is often worse than in other breeds. This can make them more susceptible to cracks, abscesses and other foot related problems. However, with good management all feet can be improved.
Managing typical thoroughbred feet
Even through many thoroughbreds have the same problems with their feet, there are lot’s of different ways to manage them. What works for one horse might not work for yours. This is because the shape of the hoof isn’t the only factor. Some horses have a strong hoof wall, while others crumble away. Some are prone to being foot sore, others are not Then there is the amount and type of work the horse is in. But there are a few key factors what will apply to all horses.
Having a good farrier visit your horse regularly is vital to managing thoroughbred feet. They will be able to help balance the foot in the best possible way. This could be anything from trimming the toes right back, to supporting the heel with special shoes to trying them barefoot or with glue on shoes, to allow the hoof to grow. If you have a preference, talk to your farrier. Despite what some people believe, a farrier will not just put shoes on for the sake of it if the owners doesn’t want them and the horse doesn’t need them. But equally, they will be reluctant to do what you would prefer if they don’t think it is what is best for your horse. Remember, they are the experts!
Routine hoof care
It’s not just your farriers job to keep your horses feet in their best condition. There are things you should be doing regularly to help. Picking your horses feet out every day not only lets you check for stones and injuries, but removing the mud and dirt helps the hoof to breathe, reducing the chance of them developing thrush. Thrush is an infection which can make the sole crumbly and if it gets into the hoof wall can make the whole hoof crumble.
Another thing you should do is use hoof oil. In the summer hoof oil helps keep moisture in the hooves, preventing them from drying out and cracking. In the winter it can act as a bit of a barrier, preventing them from getting too wet. I recommend Kevin Bacons hoof dressing. If any of you have thoroughbreds you will probably have come across this before. I feel the fact that its what many farriers put on shows how good it is. Since Scottie has black feet I can use the one with tar, which I love as it makes his feet look really smart.
Good nutrition is vital to supporting healthy hooves. There are lots of different supplements available aimed at strong, health hooves. But Biotin seems to be the key ingredient. Biotin should be included in most compound feeds, so have a look at the amount you are currently feeding. If you are struggling to find this information get in touch with the feed company, they should be more than happy to help.
The average horse needs 15mg of Biotin a day to maintain good hooves. If you want to improve hoof quality, you really need to be feeding around 20mg a day. I feed Scottie Baileys Lo Cal balancer which has 15mg of Biotin. So when he had poor feet I bought a biotin supplement and fed half the recommended amount as we only needed an extra 5mg a day. I quickly saw the new growth coming through and after a tub I haven’t needed to feed it again as the 15mg in the balancer seems to be enough to maintain the hoof quality.
Do bare in mind though, that it can take 4-6 months for hooves to grow from the coronet band to the toe. So while you might see a change in hoof growth early on, it can take a while for this improvement to make a difference to the toes.
Scottie’s bad thoroughbred feet
When I first got Scottie he didn’t have horrific feet, but they weren’t good. His fronts were particularly bad, being very wide and flat. He didn’t have backs on at the time which shows that he had fairly strong feet. Although I knew he had been in a lot of work without shoes before I got him, I wasn’t sure how much road work he was used to, so decided to put some back shoes on too. Which looking back was a great idea since we moved to a yard where all the fields were a good 5-15 minute walk down a concrete track.
Recently I have started to see a massive improvement in the shape of his feet and the farrier has seen improvement in the quality of the hoof wall. As you can see in the diagram below, the inner wall of the hoof mirrors the outer wall:
Interestingly, my farrier said Scottie’s inner wall is more of a wiggly line, rather than a smooth line. It is still perfectly healthy but she thinks its due to when he was racing and being shod often. As the nails are hammered into the white line. However, I don’t think his feet have improved by good shoeing alone. There are two things I think have played a major role in his improvement.