Cleaning the Foot
Taking care of your horse’s hooves should be part of the daily care that you give your horse. On a daily basis, foot cleaning and inspection of each hoof should be carried out.
Each foot should be picked up and the underside cleaned with a hoof pick, a tool readily available at tack stores or other outlets and designed specifically for this purpose. Clean from the heel toward the toe, being careful to clean the grooves or sulci on each side of the frog and the cleft of the frog itself. Note if the frog is of normal consistency or hardness. In a condition known as "thrush" it may become soft or mushy. Remove any foreign material like stones or bits of debris that may have become lodged, both before and after you ride your horse.
Along with routine foot cleaning, your horse’s stall should be cleaned regularly and bedding replaced as necessary. Chronic and prolonged exposure to manure and urine-soaked bedding can soften the exposed hoof tissues and predispose to certain foot infections such as thrush.
Maintaining Moisture in the Foot
A certain amount of moisture is required in the foot to help prevent the wall from cracking and chipping and to ensure the flexibility and resiliency of the shock-absorbing tissues. Environmental conditions that result in hard, dry pastures and paddocks can result in dry feet. Your farrier may recommend a good quality, commercially-available hoof dressing that can be used on the hoof wall and coronet, and the frog and sole.
Hoof trimming should be carried out on a regular basis. This helps to prevent overgrown walls, which can chip or break off unevenly, develop cracks or fissures, or predispose to lameness as the foot becomes unbalanced. For most horses, regular trimming should occur about every 6 weeks +/-. This interval can increase or decrease depending on the individual animal and how quickly the wall grows. Growth rate is influenced by many factors including season of the year, the type of work the horse is doing and the frequency with which it is doing it, how the horse is being kept (stall versus pasture), and the quality and quantity of nutrition being provided. The wall tends to grow more slowly in cold winter months and in dry weather. Infection and inflammation within the foot as well as the horse’s general health status will also affect both rate and quality of hoof growth.
Trimming is done by a qualified person (most horse owners use a trained "farrier") with the appropriate tools to remove the excessive length of wall. Any dead, flaky material can be removed from the sole with a hoof knife but this area should not be excessively pared. In a similar fashion, loose "tags" of frog material may be removed but this tissue too should not be excessively trimmed.
Trimming is then followed by rasping with a file to remove rough edges of the wall and to level the foot. The goals are to return the foot to its normal length and shape, and to ensure that the bottom of the foot is level and that the frog and the hoof wall remain as the main weight-bearing surfaces.
Your farrier will also try to ensure that the proper angle of the hoof wall in relation to the ground and the angle of the pastern is maintained, keeping in mind that there are both breed variations and variation within breeds in regards to this.