The age old saying – No Hoof, No Horse could never be a truer statement. Our horse’s hooves lead a very demanding life.
Our domesticated horses can face a multitude of issues when it comes to their hooves. Herbs can be used, not only as a response to a diagnosis, but also as a preventative measure before an incident occurs.
A multitude of problems can happen, from Laminitis to Ringbone. This article looks at just two of the common issues your horse may encounter.
“The saddest thing about laminitis is that in the majority of cases, it is a manmade disease caused by management and feeding practices that are not in line with the natural requirements of equine physiology” (Kauffmann & Cline, 2017).
Many factors can trigger laminitis. Spring is a notorious time for the rise in Laminitis cases, caused by sugar toxicity and stress from a diet high in starches and sugar.
Laminitis can become life threatening if not addressed quickly. In its simple terms it is inflammation of the laminae. This soft tissue structure attaches the pedal bone of the foot to the hoof wall.
We know the common signs, the laminatic stance, the cresty neck, along with fat pads in certain areas of the body and the tell-tale digital pulse. But did you know that the imbalances start at a cellular level that can’t be seen immediately, not even in blood tests.
This is why prevention is always key.
At its worst, it can cause a horse to founder. The pedal bone detaches and rotates so much due to losing its support structure within the hoof. In the most serious of cases, it punctures through the sole of the hoof!
Grass cracks are more than often superficial fissures, starting at the ground, travelling upwards.
Sand cracks are the opposite, they start at the top, at the coronary band and travel downwards.
Toe cracks can be a sign of mechanical stress.
Quarter cracks occur in the quarter section of the hoof. They can be difficult to manage, starting at the coronet and travelling downwards. They penetrate through the full thickness of the hoof wall, into the tissue.
The main issue with cracks is the time. The damage caused can’t be easily fixed. Again, prevention is key.
So, what herbs can be used to support my horse with these problems?
When looking for herbs to support your horse’s hooves, use ones that stimulate and improve circulation to the blood supply in the foot.
There are many herbs to support your horse’s hooves such as Cleavers, Kelp, Comfrey, Milk Thistle, Dandelion and Yarrow. These herbs will support your horse’s digestion, their liver, and their lymphatic system, all addressing deficiencies in your horse’s body.
The three herbs below are just a select few to give you more knowledge of how and why they may benefit your horse.
3 Herbs That are Traditionally Known to Alleviate Symptoms of Hoof Issues
This wonderful herb grows in hedgerows in the English countryside where many horses get the pleasure of self-selecting or snacking on when out and about.
Hawthorn has a long list of known ways to support the hoof
- Improves circulation
- Eases soreness and tenderness in the hoof
- It is a cardiac tonic, strengthening blood vessels and improving coronary blood supply
- It helps to normalise your horses blood pressure
- Dilates and strengthens blood vessels
Hawthorn contains flavonoids. These have a distinct action of dilating the peripheral blood vessels, which will improve blood supply to affected areas (Self, 2004).
Burdock is both a diuretic and tonic herb.
- It therefore helps to nourish, tone and restore organ systems of the body
- It is a diuretic herb helping to ease inflammation, especially in the heart, liver, and kidneys
- It also helps to clear waste products from the body
- It is an ultimate tissue cleanser
- Combine with herbs that encourage the removal of waste products from body, such as nettles / cleavers (self, 2004).
Rosehips are a very common herb used for a variety of different things. When it comes to supporting your horses hoof care they may help to
- Strengthen the hoof due to flavonoids and high vitamin levels
- Act as a blood flow and tissue damage restorative as they are naturally high in vitamin A, C, D and E
- Provide a source of vitamin C. An essential nutrient most famous for its ability to strengthen capillary fragility and connective tissue
“Bioflavonoids provide antimicrobial and antispasmodic properties as well as strengthening the circulatory system in particular the capillaries. Bioflavonoids work synergistically with Vitamin C and most good sources of bioflavonoids are also good sources of Vitamin C, demonstrating the wisdom of nature.
These nutritive and medicinal properties of Rosehips explain why they are so important for the health of the hoof, where the coronet band is filled with dense capillary beds” (Ferguson, 2010)
A couple of points to consider
The number one thing to also factor in when thinking about hoof care is
What we feed our horses has a direct effect on the health of the hoof
It is advisable to seek advice from a qualified nutritionist to ensure that your horses dietary needs are met and not causing further damage.
Have you heard of a track system?
Locking horses up when they are prone to laminitis causes its own set of issues.
Track systems are becoming more widespread and may be the answer you’ve been looking for as a prevention to laminitis, as well as providing a variety of terrain to improve the condition of your horse’s hooves.
These magnificent set ups not only provide a source of hoof care, they provide areas of enrichment and encourage more movement, benefiting the whole horse.
You can find lots of information out there about track systems for horses, a good start is the Official Paddock Paradise Facebook Page.
As always, any questions, ask away
Have a Happy Day
A Modern Horse Herbal – Hilary Page Self
The Complete Horse Herbal – Victoria Ferguson
The Essential Hoof Book – Susan Kauffmann & Christina Cline