Gimme the scoop on picking hooves!
The WHY's of picking feet are many - mainly it's a preventative task.
- You can keep your barn aisle cleaner if you pick feet in the stall before you come out.
- You have a chance to feel all of your horse's legs and tendons, checking for heat and swelling, before he goes for exercise or turnout. If you find an injury, swelling, or something weird, you are not walking him or letting him loose on a hurt leg.
Feet like this get the possible thrush trapped in, and can act like glue for stones and pebbles to lodge themselves into!
-You can make sure there is no thrush developing. Thrush is fairly easy to detect, you will smell it, and see black goo in the frog and grooves, although I have seen it so bad it's in the sole, too. Nip it in the bud.
-Check for tweaked or loose shoes and missing or loose nails before you go anywhere.
-Check for stones and twigs and mulch and stuff that likes to get stuck in there. If you find a nail, screw, or other sharp object in your horse's hoof, it's time to PANIC. This is life threatening (due to the intense infection and hard to treat area) and you need to call your Veterinarian ASAP. This article details what happens and what you can do to increase the chances of survival.
Hang a hoof pick on your horse's halter hook for easy access before you take your horse out.
And here are the HOW's of picking hooves.
-I like a really good hoofpick with a long triangular pick. This shape is easier to get into the bulb/groove/shoe crevice where lots of things like to hide. I prefer a pick that also has a brush, this is great for sweeping out all the crud and dust and stuff. This also allows you to pick, sweep, and pick again if need be.
-Work in good lighting. This is a MUST. I once pulled a piece of bark from a groove that I couldn't see when picking in the stall but found minutes later when in better light. Some hoof picks have lights on them. Handy.
-Be diligent. Pick hooves first thing, in the middle of things, and last thing. Do it again before and after riding and before and after turnout. You can never do it too much. The bonus to doing it all the time is that your horse will become quite good at it, so when you are somewhere new with your horse you are not needing to train this behavior.
Some other thoughts on hoof picking -
-It may be handy to hang a hoof pick on the halter hook.
-When in doubt, pick again. When in real doubt, call your Farrier or Veterinarian.
-If a shoe is loose and you need to yank it, read this! Cover the "raw" hoof with packing, duct tape, and an outer boot if you have one.
-Don't wait too long after a ride to pick. If you have no time and you must toss your horse away until later, pick the feet before you do so. It only takes a minute and can be the difference between lame for weeks (because of bruising or a stone) and healthy. (oops - soapbox!)
-Pick just as often for barefoot horses. Yes, the grooves are likely not as deep as a shod horse, but they can still get stuff stuck in there.
Did you know you can get hoof picks with magnets? They stick to your metal barn or posts! I love the ones with brushes - great to get out every bit of goo.
OK - thoughts, stories, and your turn!!