27 May Horse’s Feet Trim Frequency: Easy Guide
Just like people need their fingernails trimmed on a regular basis, horses need their feet trimmed regularly. Horses’ hooves play an important role when it comes to their health. They help with weight distribution and circulation. In order to keep the hooves balanced and healthy, it’s important to get them taken care of on a regular basis.
How often do horses need their feet trimmed? It is generally agreed upon that horses need their feet trimmed every five to eight weeks, although the exact amount of time can vary for each horse depending on the season, the terrain where they’re kept, and whether or not they wear horseshoes.
Because the answer to this question can be different for every horse, let’s look at the different factors impacting horse hoof trimming so that you’ll be able to make a good decision based on your horse’s particular needs.
Feet Trim Frequency: Seasonal Variations
Many new horse owners aren’t aware that their horse’s feet will grow faster or slower depending upon the season. In the warmer months, from May all the way through September, a horse’s hoofs will grow very fast. From October through April, their hoof growth will slow down substantially.
In the summer, depending upon the horse, feet should be trimmed every four to six weeks. In the winter, feet should be trimmed every six to ten weeks.
The change in the season can widen the variation due to a number of different aspects. In the summer, horses will be worked more, which will cause more wear to their feet. The horse will also spend a lot of its time stomping its hooves at flies, also causing the feet to wear much faster.
Another thing to consider about summer weather is the variation of dry weather and wet weather. During the summer, there can be a rotation between the wet and dry. The dry weather will cause the horse’s hooves to dry out while the wet weather will cause the horse’s feet to become softer. This back and forth between wet and dry can create cracks in the hooves, so it’s best to have a farrier inspect the feet more frequently than in the winter.
In the winter, horses will usually get worked less and they won’t have to constantly be stomping at flies; this means that there will be less wear to the hoof. Winters are usually drier than the summertime, so the horse’s feet will become dry and firm and grow more slowly.
Feet Trim Frequency: The Influence of Terrain
This may be hard to believe, but I once knew a Tennesee Walker who went barefoot and would only require a farrier visit twice a year. This is the only horse that I’ve ever met with this gift; however, before horses were put into captivity, their hooves would naturally remain the correct length due to the horse traveling miles a day between water and food as their hooves would wear on the terrain in between.
While a rougher terrain can still have the same effect on horses today, it can also cause damage to horses that have flat and tender feet. Rocks, stumps, and other obstructions from the ground can cause the horse’s hoof to become bruised and sore. This terrain will usually warrant shoes for horses with soft feet. That way, the shoes can protect the feet and elevate the hoof sole from rocks.
If your horse has shoes, the farrier will be required to come out more regularly to re-shod the horse’s feet. Horses that go barefoot on rough terrain have the ability to go longer without seeing the farrier since the terrain will naturally wear their hooves.
Muddy or marshy terrain can be really bad on your horse’s feet. It can cause them to become too soft, which will make the hooves more sensitive and more easily bruised. In these conditions, your horse is also at risk of fungal infections, like thrush, developing in their feet. The hooves will grow faster due to the wet environment. In this type of terrain, it’s best to have the farrier out more frequently to ensure the health of your horse’s hooves.
If your horse is on dry terrain, the biggest issue you may face is cracking in the horse’s hooves. Since there will be a lack of moisture in the ground, your horse’s feet will dry out, making them crack and chip more easily. Other than that, horses in dry environments usually have hard strong feet that grow more slowly. Keep an eye on the horse’s hooves to determine when you’ll need the farrier.
Feet Trim Frequency: Barefoot VS Horseshoes
Hoof care will vary greatly depending on whether or not your horse wears horseshoes. If your horse doesn’t wear shoes, then they’re considered barefoot. A barefoot horse can sometimes go longer without visiting the farrier due to being able to sustain proper weight distribution on a longer foot compared to horses with shoes on. A barefoot horse with healthy feet should at least see the farrier every 6 – 10 weeks.
A horse’s feet are constantly growing. If they’re wearing shoes, their feet will not be able to expand outward like they would without shoes, which will result in a greater amount of their weight being supported from the sides of their hoofs. This can result in lameness if they go for long periods without being re-shod. A horse that has shoes should have a visit from the farrier every 4 – 6 weeks.
If you are very active with your horse, going on frequent trail rides or competing in numerous competitions throughout the year, then horseshoes will likely be the best option for your horse’s feet. Horseshoes offer extra protection for hooves and can prevent unwanted bruising and cracking from all of the extra stress of training.
However, if your horse has good strong feet and they aren’t being rigorously ridden miles a day, then letting your horse go barefoot can be a good option.
I recommend getting the professional opinion of your farrier, as they will be able to give you the most accurate information for your horse’s needs.
How to Tell If a Horse Needs Its Feet Trimmed
There are a number of ways to tell if your horse needs its feet trimmed. The natural shape of the hoof at the correct length will differ from that of a hoof that is getting too long. Inspecting your horse’s feet on a daily basis will help you to start noticing the difference in the hoof when it’s longer versus when it’s shorter.
One thing you can do to tell if the horse’s hoof is getting long is to pick up the hoof and look at the toe, the front part of the hoof. At a good length, the toe will be more circular; at a longer length, the toe will become more oval.
Another way to tell if the hoof needs to be trimmed is to look at how the outside of the hoof. The hoof running between the toe and the coronet band should be a straight line. If that line has a dip or a bend to it, then the toe has grown out and the hoof has gotten too long.
Inspecting the angle of the horse’s hoof to the rest of its body can help you determine whether the hoof is too long or not. Take a moment to notice the angle of the coronet band. If the angle is correct, you should be able to draw a straight line from the coronet band to the horse’s elbow. If the angle is off due to the hoof being too long, then the straight line will hit lower on the leg.
While horses may get a manicure much more than you do, it’s vital to the health of your horse. If you ever have any doubts about caring for your horse’s hooves, your farrier is a great source of information who can give you valuable tips and advice to properly caring for your horse.
Thank you for reading! If you’re looking for more valuable information about caring for your horse, check out our article 50 Tips for New Horse Owners: Everything You Need to Know.
I’m a lifelong horse trainer and horseback rider who’s passionate about teaching others about the things I’ve learned. I grew up competing in numerous English horseback riding disciplines and am now a certified equine massage therapist. I currently own three horses.