Owning horses can be a rewarding venture, but they do require regular care and attention if you hope for them to remain at an optimum level of health.

Teeth

Throughout a horses life, their teeth continuously grow, which is different from humans and other small animals. Because horses are herbivores, their teeth are constantly worn when grazing, and their body compensates for that loss. Because their teeth grow, it’s important to regularly inspect a horse’s mouth. This is especially true for older horses.

If one tooth has nothing to grind against, it could grow rapidly, causing painful wounds in their mouth. Filing down any pointy edges (called “floating”) helps to keep the horse happy and comfortable, allowing them to eat and keep their weight up. Routine dental check-ups can also keep infection and gum disease at bay. Horses often adapt to discomfort and won’t show many explicit signs of dental issues. A thorough exam is the best way to ensure that the horse isn’t exhibiting any signs of severe dental problems.

Hooves

To start, genetics have a lot to do with the health of a horse’s hooves. Some horses are simply bred to have healthier feet. To avoid major complications, it’s easiest to buy or breed horses whose feet are already in good shape. Strength, durability and hoof conformation are three categories you should look at.

Beyond this, scheduling regular trims is very important. Depending on the horse, it’s best to have the trimming done every 4-8 weeks to avoid cracking and chipping. Hoof horn tends to grow faster in the summer than winter, but the work a horse does also affects how often they will need hooves to be trimmed.

Owners should also regularly check their horse’s feet to make sure they are not packed with mud or rocks. By regularly inspecting the hooves, you can also quickly detect problems like thrush, white line disease or a hoof abscess.

Most horses are fine without shoes, as that is how their feet were naturally designed to perform. However, some horses will need shoes for protection, therapeutic reasons, gait alteration or proper traction.  

For Owners

It is important to keep an eye on your horse’s hoof and teeth hygiene, but that isn’t where hygienic care ends. Horses need to have access to clean stables, especially during foaling. For owners with multiple horses, one should also look for signs of infectious disease regularly so the sick animals can be quarantined, minimizing spread to healthy horses.