Mule Hoof Care Basics
Horses and Mules living outdoors on varied terrain wear and grow their hooves in a natural fashion. Domestic horses living primarily in paddocks or stables, with little exercise and limited opportunity to toughen their feet are susceptible to a number of hoof problems. Daily inspections and cleanings, routine trimming and the proper application of shoes for horses and mules that require them will prevent many problems.
Good stall sanitation is essential for proper foot care. Areas containing a buildup of urine and wet manure will promote thrush and canker. It is important to clean your mule’s hooves before and after each workout, daily if your horse/mule is stabled and at least once a week if your horse is turned out in pasture. Use the hoof pick to remove debris from the soul and frog. Start at the frog and work toward the toe. Strokes are best made away from the handler.
Lack of moisture may be a cause of hoof drying and cracking. Several methods for improving hoof moisture include: applying mud packs or commercial hoof dressings or watering the ground in order to create mud.
Excess moisture, especially frequent wet to dry episodes may do more harm than good. Hoof dressings and mud packs can remove periople (the wax-like covering that protects the hoof wall from absorbing too much water). When a hoof absorbs too much water it may become less elastic. When this happens, the soft, crumbly horn may peel and separate. Hooves that are less elastic do not hold horseshoe nails as well.
The health of your horse and mules outer hoof is directly related to the health of the inner structure of the foot. Routine exercise stimulates circulation, maintains health of the corium and elastic tissues, and balances moisture content internally. When the external moisture is kept constant and relatively dry most hoof problems related to drying and cracking will be eliminated.
A balanced diet is also an essential element for normal growth and healthy appearance of the hoof. Overfeeding and underfeeding are among the most common causes of poor hoof growth in a foal. A balanced feed should provide amounts of calcium, biotin and essential amino acids. Adding selenium to a diet already meeting selenium requirements can have serious consequences, including hoof wall degeneration or even loss of the foot.
A mature horse’s hooves will grow about 1/3″ each month. The foal’s rate is 1/2″ each month. Hoof growth is fastest during spring and slowest during the hottest and coldest weather. Shod horses require frequent trimming because the horseshoe prevents hoof wear. If your horse is shod its hooves typical require trimming about every 4-6 weeks. A certified farrier will be most able to determine your individual horses needs.
Since a horse’s toe grows faster than it’s heel, if the hoof is not trimmed frequently enough the foot becomes unbalanced. After several weeks the long toe alters the horse’s gait. This may result in injury and poor performance. The longer toe also contributes to sole bruises, corns and contracted heels.
The purpose of remedial hoof care is to correct, or compensate for, abnormal hoof/pastern axis, to relieve stresses associated with painful tendon and bone diseases, or to prepare the horse for conventional horseshoes. Corrective trimming and shoeing should be part of a specific treatment program. Corrective trimming and shoeing is an integral part of treatment for most orthopedic diseases horse contract. Laminitis, sand cracks, flat feet, corns, sole bruises, navicular disease, and contracted heels are the most common. Other conditions may include: contracted flexor tendons, tendonitis, ligament injuries, ringbone, sidebones, bone spavin, dropped sole, and cunean tendon bursitis.