Horses belong to the class of mammals called ungulates. Ungulates are mammals that bring down their weights on the tips of their toes while in motion. The ungulate category mostly consists of hoofed animals like zebras, camels, donkeys, deer and giraffes apart from horses.
The hoof is the toe tip of ungulates, reinforced by a thick and hard layer of keratin. The sole is softer and rubbery as compared to the outside, but still hard. The layer of solid nail around the toe tips forms a hard wall. The entire weight of the horse falls on the soles and the wall edges.
The hooves of horses keep growing, but are also constantly eroded through motion. They take the whole weight of the horse, which can exceed 1000 lbs. Horses are prized because of their strength and their ability to bear humans and other loads for pleasure as well as work. Their mobility is greatly valued, and thus, a horse with problems of the feet can lose his essential usefulness.
Hoof care comprises of three elements: cleaning, trimming and shoeing.
Hygiene is very important in horse care. You must keep your horse’s hooves clean at all times, and take pains to clean them out before and after rides. The hoof pick is an essential part of your horse care cleaning kit. Make sure that even if he is not ridden, your horse gets hoof grooming every day with the pick to ward off any possibility of thrush.
Hooves grow all the time, and thus they need to be trimmed regularly to keep them in ideal shape and size and allow the horse to maintain top form. Ideally, trimming needs to be done once a month or two; it would depend on the uses the horse is put to and his living and working environment. Trimming is not an easy task, and is most definitely not to be done by novices. It requires the services of trained farriers.
Inexperienced and amateur farriers’ most usual error is to trim the wall a little too short. Excess trimming is similar to cutting the nails on your feet too far in. It can cause a lot of grief. When it comes to hoof care, money mindedness can have disastrous effects; the work must be handled by professionals. The expenses involved in hiring an accomplished farrier to do the job are well worth bearing.
If you are using a horse regularly, you shoe him. Not doing so is the equivalent of your doing rigorous labor on your feet without footwear.
We need footwear to protect our feet and horses need shoes for the same reason. While horse feet in their natural state are very strong and enduring, they are not meant for the kind of labor human beings can subject horses to
You do get horses that are totally unfit for hard work, because of flat hoof walls or weak ones. Even these horses do require shoes. You should consult your vet and use the services of a top bracket farrier for such horses, as a great deal of additional care is necessary.