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30.1.2022 How To… Care For The Older Horse… In 10 Easy Steps: Chapter 9

Chapter 9: Farrier

The older horse is likely to need some extra care and attention to his feet, but for different reasons to the younger horse. Hoof growth usually slows down as the horse ages, and so you might get away with less regular visits from the farrier. On the other side of the coin, hoof quality can go downhill as the horse gets older, and so you might need more regular care to keep the hoof in as good shape as possible. Some older horses are better shod, others are better barefoot, and your farrier can advise you on what’s best for your horse. The changes in hoof growth and quality could be down to the difference in the horse’s work, or his body condition, or the level of nutrients he’s getting from his feed, for example. There’s also a greater risk of infection as the horses ages, because his immune system won’t function as well as it did when he was younger, so you need to keep an eye out for lameness, or heat in the hoof or lower leg.

Some horses get less flexible as they get older, and find it more difficult to bend their leg for the farrier, or even to have their feet picked out. Others find it hard to stretch their front legs forward, or their hind legs forward or backward, both of which are positions that the farrier is likely to ask for. Some will find it more difficult to balance on three legs, and if there’s a pain issue, your horse might not want to weight bear (stand) on the lame leg while the opposite (or diagonal) leg is lifted for trimming or shoeing.

Your farrier will need to take your horse’s physical issues into account as they change over time, which can take skill and patience. You can do exercises to help your horse to maintain comfort, strength and balance, to make it easier for him to cope with farrier visits. If this is something you think your horse would benefit from, contact your local Chartered Physiotherapist or Registered Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioner for assessment and advice. It could be something as simple as working your horse gently for 20 minutes just before the farrier visits, to help him to loosen up.

If your horse is really struggling and exercises are not helping, then contact your veterinarian to discuss the option of pain relief for farrier visits. Hoof care is an essential part of the management of your horse, and it’s not fair if it hurts your horse.

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion

January 30, 2022
Sue Palmer