Never were there truer words uttered than ”no foot, no horse”. Up to 80% of horse lameness originates in the foot.
A horse with problem feet is an ongoing source of frustration. Not only do hoof problems cause lameness, but it’s heart-wrenching to watch these beautiful animals hobbling around in pain.
If you’ve tried everything to stop splitting, cracking hooves or to get rid of laminitis to no avail, read on to find out about the latest in horse hoof care.
The Horses Hoof
Unlike our fingernails, horses hooves are complex organs. The hoof contains cartilage, ligaments, blood vessels, bone and joints enclosed in a horny capsule.
When all these elements are working in harmony, the hoof does an amazing job of supporting the horse’s weight in all kinds of terrain at any speed. When things go wrong, they can go very, very, very wrong.
Even the simple act of getting shoes fitted can disrupt this delicate balance. Don’t let anyone but an experienced farrier file or shoe your horse’s feet.
Some horses seem to pick up problems with their feet no matter how carefully you look after them. Some of these issues have to do with genetics, disease, or injury but most of them are treatable.
If you are doing everything possible to care for your horse’s feet and still having problems, it’s time to look at their diet.
Natural Horse Hoof Care
Of course, you get all sorts of off-the-shelf horse hoof care products to plaster on the walls of your horse’s hooves. Many of these work well, but just as many are totally unnecessary and ineffective.
Every horseman knows that the best way to care for every part of your horse is from the inside out. Wild horses rarely experience any foot problems, thanks to a diet that is as nature intended it to be.
Now that we’ve taken these animals out of their natural environment and put them to work, it can be difficult to replicate these ideal conditions. To keep their hooves in great condition, be sure to include the following elements in their diet –
While good quality grass is very low in fat, it’s chock full of essential fatty acids which are vital for hoof health. When this grass dries up in winter or during the hay-making process, these fatty acids dissipate.
The periople is the soft skin above the coronary band of the hoof. It provides a protective outer layer around the hoof wall and contains dense keratin and fatty acids. The periople relies on a constant supply of Omega 3 and Omega 6 to stay healthy.
Horses need to consume Omega 3 and Omega 6 at a ratio of around 3:1 to 6:1. This is how nature typically serves up these fatty acids. Being a natural product, CBD oil contains the perfect ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6, just like grass does.
Supplementing your horse’s feed with a hemp oil tincture or pellets can do a lot to maintain the delicate balance of fatty acids in their diet.
A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E is instrumental in maintaining overall muscle health and this extends into the foot.
It also plays a role in protecting the vital fatty acids which are so important to hoof health. Since horses cannot produce their own vitamin E, they must receive their daily dose from food sources.
CBD oil is naturally very high in Vitamin E and C, which are vital for your horse’s health.
Horses can never have too much vitamin C as they will excrete any excess.
It’s a good idea to supplement their food with vitamin C to ensure you are giving their hooves the best chance possible.
A few drops of hemp oil tincture or a few scoops of CBD pellets in their rations will do the trick. The secret is simple, a healthy diet means a healthy horse and healthy hooves.
Minor Hoof Ailments and How CBD Oil Can Help
As tough as hooves are, they are one of the major sources of ailments in horses.
A hoof abscess results from a foreign body entering the hoof wall. It is an extremely painful infection and you’ll notice that your horse is unable to place their foot on the ground.
There’s no easy way to get around a hoof abscess. The pus will need to drain over time. A farrier will open up the area to allow this to happen and a hot foment will help to draw the infection out. Box rest in a clean, dry stall is imperative.
Just like a jab in the foot can bruise our own tender soles, horses are also susceptible to injuries from sharp objects.
Once again, time and rest are the only cure.
Thrush is a smelly infection of the frog caused by damp conditions. Clean and dry the bottom of your horse’s hoof and keep them stabled on thick dry bedding.
Fortunately, once you are familiar with the odor of thrush you can act to prevent it from getting so bad that it leads to lameness.
A punctured sole is one step up from a bruised sole and can be extremely dangerous if left untreated.
Keep the wound clean, disinfected and covered. It is a good idea to plug the wound to assist with healing from within.
Sand-crack refers to types of cracks in the hoof wall which can either result from poor nutrition or injury. It usually starts from the bottom of the hoof and works its way up, causing the horse to become progressively lame.
Seedy toe is a bacterial infection which creeps in between the hoof wall and sensitive laminae of the foot. It is often caused by a compromised immune system or poor diet.
You’ll need your farrier’s help to fix both seedy toe and sand-crack but including CBD in your horse’s diet will go a long way towards avoiding it altogether.
For all these other relatively minor complaints, CBD will go a long way towards keeping your horse content and pain-free during the healing process.
Laminitis is one of the most debilitating diet-related ailments that can affect a horse’s hooves. Desmitis is another serious hoof problem indirectly associated with problems higher in the leg.
Read on to find out how CBD can assist recovery from these major problems too.
CBD and Laminitis
Laminitis is one of those words that sends shivers down the spine of any horse owner.
It occurs when the blood flow to the laminae in the foot becomes restricted, leading to inflammation and intense pain.
What Causes Laminitis?
Laminitis is an extremely painful and debilitating condition that can have several causes, although diet is the usual suspect. Some of the reasons horses can develop laminitis include:
- Abrupt changes in diet
- Over-eating – especially of fresh green grass
- Illnesses like Potomac Horse Fever
- Bacterial infection
- Disease of the foot
- Carrying too much weight on one leg
- Allergic reactions
Some horses are more prone to laminitis than others and often have recurring bouts of this serious ailment.
Symptoms of Laminitis
Even experienced horse owners can sometimes mistake laminitis for colic. The horse will appear visibly uncomfortable and won’t eat their food. They won’t be able to move.
Panting and sweating are common symptoms. Pulse and respiration rates will be higher than normal.
They often stand with their front legs stretched a little forward, taking weight on their hindquarters. This is to ease the weight off their front feet and relieve the pain. In extreme cases, they will lie down to take pressure off their feet.
In mild cases, the horse may shift their weight from side to side in a rocking motion.
Closer observation will reveal that the hooves feel hot. The horse will flinch when you apply pressure to the sole. Often, you will be able to feel a strong pulse where the digital artery crosses over the fetlock. In severe cases, you will notice this in all four feet.
What Can You Do About It?
Urgent veterinary care is imperative to treat laminitis, but CBD can go a long way towards easing the process along.
Your vet will inject a strong painkiller and something to control the blood pressure for starters. Frog supports can also help to alleviate the pressure.
Next, he will examine the horse to get to the bottom of what has caused the laminitis and advise accordingly. Box rest for at least 30 days in a stable with deep bedding is best.
From then on, you, your vet and farrier are in for a lengthy battle to get rid of the condition and keep it under control.
CBD Oil and Desmitis
Desmitis is an infuriating condition that causes intermittent pain and lameness. It usually affects the suspensory ligament but can also involve the coffin bone inside the hoof.
The damage to fibers of the ligaments distorts their shape, causing them to loosen their grip on the coffin bone. This may cause movement of the bone and pain when the horse places their foot on the ground.
Signs of Desmitis
All the usual signs of lameness are present but only occur in certain circumstances. For example, the horse may appear only slightly lame when trotted in a straight line, but the lameness worsens when circled.
Your vet will need to take an MRI scan of your horse’s foot to diagnose desmitis with certainty.
Treatment for Desmitis
Usually, treatment involves giving the horse a painkiller and anti-inflammatory drugs, corrective farriery, or surgery to block the associated nerves.
Nowadays, advancements in veterinary science allow the vet to find the source of the problem more accurately and treat that instead of the foot.
How Can CBD Help Desmitis
CBD is a very effective painkiller and can reduce the dose of pharmaceuticals your horse will need to cope with the healing process. These strong pain medications, such as Bute, are harmful to your horse and illegal in competition.
CBD no longer features on the FEI Prohibited Substances List as it does not contain THC.
It is very important to bear in mind that if a horse needs a painkiller to perform adequately, it should not be competing in the first place.
How Does CBD Help?
CBD is full of cannabidiol which has powerful healing properties. it has no psychoactive properties and works with your horses’ inbuilt endocannabinoid system to manage pain and inflammation.
The endocannabinoid system consists of a network of CB1 and CB2 receptors that are present in every body cell. These receptors usually interact with compounds called anandamide and 2-AG which the body produces to regulate pain and inflammation.
The good news is that these receptors can also interact with the cannabinoids in CBD oil to give the horse’s system a boost when needed.
In this way, CBD can help to relieve the pain associated with hoof conditions while the horse deals with ongoing medical treatment.
Apart from this, CBD has other properties which can help any distressed horse on the road to recovery. It has a calming effect and will help to increase their appetite.
CBD will combat the depression associated with box rest and allow your horse to recover as calmly and comfortably as possible.
How Much CBD Should Your Horse Have?
Horses are large animals and need much larger doses of any medication than dogs or humans.
About 15 drops of CBD tincture should do the trick for most horses. Preferably, place the drops under the horse’s tongue where they will travel into the bloodstream quickly.
You can mix the tincture with some applesauce and give it the horse in a worming paste dispenser if preferred.
Horses do not usually have an aversion to the taste of these drops although some of them prefer the peppermint-flavored CBD tincture.
To maintain optimum hoof health, include CBD pellets with the horses feed at a rate of 2 to 4 scoops daily.
Basic Hoof Care
No amount of CBD oil or any other feed supplement is going to get you out of picking out your horse’s feet every day. This part of basic horse hoof care is vitally important.
Keeping your horse’s feet clean will go a long way towards keeping them healthy. Plus, handling the feet regularly will give you the opportunity to notice any abnormalities or injuries and act before they cause serious problems.
If you’d like to stay up to date with the latest about how hemp can help your horse, keep reading our blog.