Managing your horse’s hoof health is a lifelong endeavor. While it’s critically important to keep your horse’s hooves in top shape while they are in active competition, horses still need conscientious maintenance throughout their retirement, breeding and twilight years. Western performance farrier Kyle Kukla, of Weatherford, Texas, shares hints on how to care for your horse’s hooves as they age.

Feed a balanced diet. If your horse is getting all the necessary nutrients in their diet, he’ll be more likely to keep a healthy hoof, Kukla says.

Continue with corrective shoeing. If your retired show horse needed corrective shoes during his career, you’ll need to at least keep that horse wearing shoes, Kukla says. They probably won’t do well going barefoot, even if their current role is a broodmare in a pasture. This is particularly true when a horse has issues with their knees — those horses must continue to wear corrective shoes to maintain comfort.

“If a horse has bad hind suspensories, or a low PA with a long toe or bad knees, those horses need to keep shoes on,” Kukla says. “Just because they’re retired doesn’t necessarily mean that injury isn’t a factor anymore.”

Schedule regular trimming. Regardless of your horse’s career status, he’ll need to be trimmed at least every eight weeks to prevent lameness.

“Each horse is an individual, but even if you have a horse with no issues what- soever and they’re retired, you still need to trim them,” Kukla says

Factor in environmental conditions. Where your horse resides makes a difference in the hoof care required. If your horse lives in Arizona, they may be able to go a little longer before seeing a farrier, but in a place like Texas — where conditions cycle between extremely wet and muddy to dry — your horse will need more frequent farrier visits.

“[Changing weather] really screws up the quality of their hoof, so you really need to keep them on a schedule and stay on top of it,” Kukla says.

Watch for thrush. Thrush can wreak havoc on a horse’s sole and frog without treatment. Kukla advises picking out your horse’s hooves at least once a week, possibly more if they’re in wet footing conditions.

“If you do that, you’ll stay ahead of the eight ball,” Kukla says. “If your horse does get it, find an iodine-based product, clean the feet out and spray the product. That usually takes care of it.”

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