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Hi Cherry,

In your almanac, you say that the repeated wet/dry cycle can damage the quality of a horse’s hooves.

My horses and I are avid swimmers in the summer…  I usually take them out every day to relieve them from the heat… they love it!  Splashing and swishing and dunking… we have a blast!

They are both young (6 & 7) geldings on 24/7 turnout with free choice grass hay and twice daily grain (1/2 cup hi fat hi fibre).

Am I doing them more harm than their fun is worth?

Christena

Hi Christena,

It depends on where you live, the temperature and humidity, the condition of your horses’ hooves and skin, and your management.

For example, if you live in a hot, humid climate, although the swim might feel good, it might take hours (or maybe never) for the horse’s coat, skin and hooves to thoroughly dry out. That can set the stage for skin problems, fungus and hoof deterioration.

A daily swim here in semi-arid Colorado would be fine – it would be refreshing and the horse would dry quickly.

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Hi Cherry,
I have an quarter horse mare that I just bought she is the sweetest thing in the world, she is at the stables where I keep my other horse the owner sold us the other too and perfectly healthy,my quarter I was testing her and noticed that her thighs and back legs are very swollen I know for an fact that she has not been out for one month so due of being in her stall for so long I am pretty sure that is the problem. Also when I made her trot she was limping but her hoofs are very long and broken that will be fixed this week. I will exercise her every day  and i massage her legs, someone said that it never goes away I am not sure about that. It is cold now and the barn is not heated so I do not want to put cold water on her legs can I do cold compresses and the then wipe her dry?
When she walks she does not limp only when she trots what are your suggestions on that?
I just want to know if this stays for the rest of her life or with exercise and taking her out it will go away she is not in pain
Thank you so much
Monika

Hi Monika,

There was a salty and sweet vet that I worked with once that used to look at a horse like yours and say, “All she needs is fresh air and exercise.”

A horse that has not been out of her stall for a month will “stock up” which is a horseman’s way of saying “swell in the legs”. Some horses stock up if they don’t receive daily exercise. All horses should have either free daily exercise (turnout in a large area where they can run and buck and roll) or daily exercise such as longeing or riding.

But before you even think about exercising the horse, she needs hoof care. All horses should have their hooves attended to (trimmed or shod) every 6-8 weeks. When a horse’s hooves have become so long as to begin cracking and breaking off, it is way past due for the horse to have farrier care.

When a horse limps at the trot, that means the horse IS in pain – it hurts to put its weight on that hoof or limb.

So my suggestions are to get the horse hoof care immediately, keep her on a 6-8 week hoof care program per your farrier’s recommendation and exercise her daily.

Then your sweet horse will be comfortable and will last you a lot longer.

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Cherry,
We have been using the book Maximum Hoof Power as a reference for the Canadian Pony Club for as long as I can remember. The content is clear, concise and fits our needs perfectly! We are updating our reading list this year and since it is out of print, I’d like to know if you can recommend a book to replace it?
Thank you for your help,
Christy

Hi Christy,

Thanks for your inquiry.

A little history.

Maximum Hoof Power was originally published by Macmillan Publishing in 1994 in their animal imprint division called Howell Book House. Shortly after the book was released, Macmillan Publishing was acquired by Simon and Schuster (also 1994). Then the Howell Book House imprint was acquired by John Wiley and Sons in 2001. Along the way, many of the animal titles went out of print. Trafalgar Square released a paperback edition of Maximum Hoof Power in 1999 which was available for several years until it too went OOP (Out of Print).

To get the hoof information back into the hands of horseowners, Richard and I worked with Storey Publishing to incorporate much of the content from Maximum Hoof Power into our new hoof book, Horse Hoof Care. It was released in 2009.

I hope this book works well for you in the Canadian Pony Club.

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Hello, my name is abbie and i would like to say your website was very useful. But could you please give me a cheap and easy product to get hold of in the UK please. My horses had their shoes done today and well he told us that one was not able to have shoes because of brittle hoof but can still be ridden. I will still ride but i want to keep them healthy. Please reply this is an important request, it needs dealing with as soon as possible please. Thanks, Abbie. 🙂

Hello Abbie,

There is an article on Cherry Hill’s Horse Information Roundup page that talks about this problem. Read this article: Dry, Brittle Hooves.

We all like “cheap and easy” but when it comes to our horses’ health and comfort it usually take a considerable investment of time and money. I don’t know what products are  available in the UK – use the Internet to find out. Start by searching for “Keratex hoof hardener” and “horse hoof supplements”.

I’d be careful about riding a horse barefoot if his hooves are too poor to hold shoes. I suggest you get several more opinions on the horse’s feet from other farriers and vets.

Best of Luck,
Richard Klimesh

Horse Hoof Care by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

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Expansion” can refer to several aspects of a hoof. Here it defines the difference in width between the shoe and the hoof as seen when looking down at the hoof with the foot on the ground. Expansion is the amount of shoe that extends past the sides of the hoof at the heels. The shoe should fit flush with the hoof from the toe around to the quarters (the widest part of the foot) and then be wider than the hoof (when the horse is freshly shod) by at least the thickness of a dime.

Hoof Expansion

by Richard Klimesh

© 2010 Richard Klimesh © Copyright Information

You can check for expansion by running the point of the pencil around the edge of the shoe from the quarters to the heels: if there’s no shoe edge for the pencil to ride on, there’s no expansion room.

Expansion room gives the hoof somewhere to go as it changes shape. With each step a horse takes, the heels of the hoof move outward under the horse’s weight. As the foot is lifted, the heels return to their original position. You can usually see evidence of this repetitive heel movement in the form of grooves or shiny areas at the heel area on the hoof surface of a shoe that’s been removed.

Also, because the hoof is cone-shaped, the base of the hoof gets wider as the hoof grows longer. But the steel shoe nailed to the hoof remains its original width. If the shoe is fit too close, with no expansion room at the heels, or if a properly fit shoe is left on too long between shoeings, the hoof wall usually spreads over the edge of the shoe as it grows. When this happens, the reduced bearing surface area of the hoof at the heel is often crushed under the weight of the horse. Then when the hoof is prepared for his next shoeing, the heels have to be trimmed excessively low to get a solid bearing surface. The best shoeing job in the world is worse than worthless if let go too long; letting the hoof grow over the shoe is a direct route down the slippery slope to a Long Toe/Low Heel configuration.

Like extending the heels of the shoe, leaving generous expansion room carries a certain amount of risk: a horse could step on the exposed shoe and pull it off. Upright hooves need less expansion room and can be shod fairly close, while more sloping, spread-out hooves need to be shod “full” with plenty of expansion. Also, a wide foot can be shod like a flared foot (they are often one and the same), with side clips to contain the hoof and prevent it from spreading over the shoe.


The average shoeing cycle ranges from 5 to 8 weeks. A farrier must determine by experience how much expansion room to leave for each hoof. Just the right amount of expansion will result in the hoof growing to the edge of the shoe but not over it at the end of the shoeing cycle. In fact, this is one of the best ways to determine the length of your horse’s shoeing cycle: when the hoof grows flush with the edge of the shoe, it’s time for a reset, if the hoof has grown past the shoe you’re horse is overdue.

The above tips are general guidelines for assessing your horse’s shoeing. Every hoof must be shod as an individual, taking into consideration the horse’s conformation, movement, habits, management and intended use. If the shoeing on your horse varies significantly from the guidelines in this article, or if you have questions about the way your horse is being shod, discuss them with your farrier. A good shoer will not be offended by straightforward questions and should be able to explain in terms you can understand why he’s shoeing your horse in a particular manner. The owner is ultimately the person responsible for providing the horse with proper hoof care. If your shoer is unwilling or unable to provide satisfactory answers to your questions, that may be reason enough to think about putting your horse’s feet in the hands of another farrier.

Thank you Richard ! This is the last part of the article “Is Your Horse Well Shod?”

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Horse For Sale by Cherry Hill“Short shoeing”, using a horseshoe that is too small for the hoof, is one of the most common and potentially harmful shoeing errors. Assessing support can be easily done at the same time you check DP balance when you’re viewing the horse from the side. Hold the pencil at arm’s length so it lines up with an imaginary a line through the center of the cannon bone to the ground. Generally, the heels of the shoe should reach this line or extend behind it. The more the heels are under-run, the farther the shoe needs to extend behind the hoof in order to provide necessary support. In many cases, egg-bar shoes or shoes with long extended heels (sometimes called “open egg-bars” because the shoes are egg-shaped but the heels of the shoe aren’t joined) are used to provide support for under-run heels.

Hoof Support

by Richard Klimesh

© 2010 Richard Klimesh © Copyright Information

Shoes that are too short will not provide adequate support for the limb and can result in under-run heels, fatigue and permanent damage to the horse’s limbs. Unfortunately, one of the most common ways horses lose front shoes is by stepping on the heels of the shoes and pulling them off. Consequently, many horseshoers are understandably reluctant to extend the heels of the shoe (figuring it will save them a return trip to replace a lost shoe). Speed horses, especially, are likely to be shod with little or no shoe extending behind the heels of the hoof. Horses with well-formed upright hooves are better able to tolerate this compromise than are horses with lower angles or under-run heels.

Good Horseshoeing - the shoe should extend back far enough to support the leg.

Note from Cherry: While I am away on business, I’ve invited Richard to blog in my stead……watch for the final part to this article series.


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Yee-haw ! Our fireworks yesterday for the Fourth of July was a 19 minute hail storm with hail stones over 1 1/2″ in diameter and when it was all over we had over 2 inches of hail everywhere and bigger piles where it flash flooded.

All the horses were in off pasture and in sheltered pens but each and every one of them chose to stand outside in the hail ! Go figure ! But at least that tells me that next time we encounter a bad hail storm when we are out riding, they won’t freak. And that’s always a good thing.

This hailstorm was brutal – the hardest hitting I have ever seen on our place. As soon as it stopped we were out slogging around in the hail – it was like walking through slimy ball bearings or tapioca pudding.

July 4, 2010 Hail Storm

July 4, 2010 Hail Storm

When we got up to the barn, we saw the shod horses teetering on huge ice mounds. Who would have thought we’d be chipping ice balls out of the horse’s hooves in July?

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Horse Management

Pea Gravel for Pens

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

We’ve just had a weekend with over 3 inches of rain (and it is still coming down). For us, that is about 1/5 of our annual rainfall, so that’s a bunch. We are thankful for the great pasture growth that will bring !

When we get so much rain at once, there are puddles all over the place but NOT in our horse’s pens which are located on well drained decomposed granite soil and covered with 3/8 minus round pea gravel. We’ve used pea gravel (pictured above) in our pens for years with great success. That reminded me of a letter I once got from a reader, so I thought this would be a good time to share that letter and my response.

Hi Cherry,

Your Horse Barn DVD by Cherry Hill and Richard KlimeshAfter much research and watching your wonderful DVD on designing a horse barn, I decided to put down 4 inches of 3/8 minus round washed pea gravel in my mare’s paddock area.

It has been excellent footing, however last week my mare went quite lame and the farrier found a tiny piece of the gravel embedded very deep next to her frog towards the heel. My farrier told me afterwards that he thinks the footing is “very dangerous” and it should not be used without several inches of sand on top. My farrier is very good and has been trusted by everyone in the area for 40 years. I keep my mare’s feet picked clean, but this little rock was so deep we couldn’t reach it without digging into the cleft.

I just cannot imagine you recommending anything that was in any way dangerous for horsekeeping so my question is this: In our new facility we are putting in sacrifice paddocks and I had been planning on surfacing them in the same gravel however now I have doubts.

Was this a freak accident? Is pea gravel the best footing or would you recommend something else?


Thank you very much for your time,
Tami

Hi Tami,

Pea gravel varies greatly according to locale, I can’t see yours, but 3/8-round pea gravel generally poses no danger for a turnout pen or we wouldn’t recommend it.

This is indeed a freak accident as you suggest as in all the years we have used it, recommended it, we have never heard of such an incident.

Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage by Cherry HillHowever there are many instances of horses (whether they live on pasture, in a sawdust bedded stall or in a pen) getting gravel imbedded in the clefts, white line and other areas of the hoof when the hooves are too soft or when the hoof has a problem like thrush, deep clefts, white line disease etc. My husband, Richard Klimesh, has been a farrier for many years and has much experience with hooves and together we feel hooves that are kept clean and dry are the healthiest and that pea gravel is the best all-weather pen surface for drainage and hoof health.

Sand can be a real danger when used in living areas where horses are fed because of the almost certain ingestion of the sand and the high probability of sand colic. The only time we recommend sand is when a horse has been or is laminitic and the veterinarian suggests it for the horse’s comfort.

Each locale and level of management requires different choices of fences, of footing, bedding and so on. So whether you choose to cover over the pea gravel with sand (which is something I would never do) or use pea gravel or another footing in your sacrifice pen will depend on sub-surface drainage, your style of management, your local weather, the health of your horse’s hooves, and other factors which I could not know.

Horse Hoof Care by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

Horse Hoof Care by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

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In-Hand Checklist

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

In-hand work is often thought of as the basic operating procedure to get a horse from point A to point B. There is much more to it than that.

Whether you are working with an untrained horse or trying to improve the manners of an older horse, start from square one and spend plenty of time on these lessons. They will help you immeasureably in the next stages of training, longeing, long lining, and riding. Throughout in-hand lessons, give special attention to tack selection and fit, consistency of a horse’s performance, the horse’s position in relation to you, and, at the top of the list, safety.

  • Can be caught easily
  • Can be haltered smoothly
  • Can be turned loose safely
  • Will walk on a lead alongside handler, handler on near side
  • Will walk on a lead alongside handler, handler on off side
  • Will perform the following maneuvers with handler on either side:
    • Walk
    • Trot
    • Stop
    • Turn left
    • Turn right
    • Back
    • Turn on the forehand
    • Turn on the hindquarters
    • Halt on the long line
  • Can be easily led with the bridle
  • Can be led with halter or bridle away from other horses
  • Can be led over obstacles such as
    • Ground poles
    • Plywood or platform
    • Concrete
    • Plastic or tarp
  • Can be led by obstacles such as
    • Flag
    • Tractor
    • Plastic on fence
  • Is easy to lead through a gate
  • Is easy to load into a trailer
  • Stands still when tied to post (no pawing, chewing, swinging hindquarters)
  • Stands still when cross-tied
  • Picks up and holds up each foot for hoof care and shoeing
  • Moves over while tied when asked
  • Stands quietly for clipping, reasonable sacking, saddling, bridling
Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry Hill

Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry Hill

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HOOF CARE
©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

To preserve your horse’s soundness and minimize farrier bills, pick out hooves daily so you can discover problems early.  Remove all manure and mud from the sole and clefts of the frog, checking for rocks, sticks and nails.  Check the frog crevices for the black, foul-smelling signs of thrush.

Look at the bottom of the hooves to be sure the hoof has not grown over the shoe.  Check for loose clinches by running your fingers over the outer hoof wall.  If you feel sharp or rough clinches (nail ends), your horse’s shoe is probably loose and needs your farrier.  Hire the most knowledgeable and experienced farrier available and have your horse trimmed or shod every 6-8 weeks.

Don’t over use greasy hoof dressings that can make the hooves too soft.  Use a hoof sealer to help maintain a healthy hoof moisture level.  If a horse is in very wet and muddy conditions, apply hoof sealer several times a week to absolutely clean and dry hooves.

To prevent lost shoes, don’t pasture in wet, boggy fields.  Minimize bathing.  Keep a hoof boot on hand to protect the hoof when your horse loses a shoe.

Regular exercise is important for overall health and especially healthy hooves.  With exercise, blood flows around a horse’s body and his legs and hooves are well nourished.  If a horse lives in a stall or small pen, the decreased blood flow can lead to leg and hoof problems.

Horse Hoof Care by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

Horse Hoof Care by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

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