Skinny HorseHorse Health

Healthy horseTHE FIT HORSE
At left is a picture of a horse in very fit condition. It happens to be an endurance horse in peak condition. Not an ounce of excess fat but well muscled. Notice the rounded butt, hip bone not sticking out, not sunken in around the tail head. Yet it has sharp withers and you can see some ribs.

The picture at right shows a very skinny horse. You can see every bone. The hip bone is sticking out. The backbone is sticking up all the way to the tail. You can count every rib. Yet I do not see any nasal discharge or weeping eyes and there are no sores so I would say this horse is healthy. One or two months of good feeding could make this horse look as good as the horse above. Watch the horse eat to see if it is having trouble chewing. Horse dentists are expensive. I would have grass hay in front of this horse 24 hours a day. And I would give it half a flake of alfalfa three times a day. And I would give it vitamins, minerals, and recommended horse feed from the feed store. A tube of ivermectin - worming medicine - in the feed would take care of most worms.

hoofThe skinny horse also appears sound. All four feet are flat on the ground. I can't see the hooves up close. But if they are not cracked, they look like sound feet, not foundered. I don't see any swelling in the legs. The horse also looks like it has good conformation. Hoof condition is extremely important. The hoof at right is healthy.


The hoof at left is too long and cracked but the cracks have not gone into the live tissue of the hoof so the cracks will be trimmed off when about an inch of hoof is trimmed off.


hoofThe hoof t right is cracked into the live tissue. This will cause much pain and will get worse if the horse is ridden. This horse needs shoeing and rest. Shoes will hold the hoof together until the crack grows out. It takes about a year to grow a new hoof. So this cracked hoof is serious and needs expensive farrier attention.


Founder is also called laminitis. The hooves at left are foundered. Notice the rippled growth lines and the curled up toe. Maybe a year ago this horse would have had acute laminitis. At that time the hoof would have still looked normal but there would be heat in the hoof and the feet would be so sore the horse would not want to take one step. In the course of a year the hoof grew out in this strange shape because the tissues on the inside of the hoof were damaged.

This condition is caused by toxins in the system causing swelling in the hoof. The hoof wall is fairly solid so the only place for the swelling to go is to push the coffin bone down and all that pressure in the solid hoof wall causes extreme pain. When the tissues in the hoof are ripped apart the hoof grows out rippled and the toe curls up.

The toxins are caused by many different things. There is something called road founder when a horse is worked long and hard, then suddenly put in a horse trailer without a long walk to cool down and stop the heart pounding. There is grain bing founder where the horse eats so much grain that the gut cannot process it and toxins form in the gut. There is poison founder where the horse eats too much of a poisonous plant like buttercup. Moldy hay can cause poisons in the gut. I have seen skinny horses that were foundered and fat horses that were not. So I don't think it is the fat that founders a horse. But a fat horse is more likely to have access to too much grain.

This condition can be cured but it is a long process of trimming the hoof and proper management. It is possible for the horse owner to do the trimming which would eliminate farrier expense. But it takes a year for a hoof to grow out. Watch a farrier trim a hoof and judge if you might be able to do a good job of it. hoof

There are a variety of rubber horse boots on the market if you want to do a lot of hard riding. But a horse can go shoeless if the feet are able to take it and the footing is soft. I don't like to ride a shoeless horse on gravel. I know what gravel feels like on my bare feet. At right is the sole of well-trimmed healthy hoof.

The sole of the hoof should be picked out daily. The stinky black stuff is thrush. I like a product called No Thrush, a powder, to treat thrush. Keeping the horse in a clean environment and the hooves picked out will help to eliminate thrush.

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