Horse hooves never stop growing. Their hooves can grow anywhere from 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch each month. Hooves grow this much due to the nature of horses. Wild horses live in climates that force them to travel a lot for food and water. Domestic horses have various uses that affect hoof care needs.
This article is about the reasons why horse hooves keep growing. We’ll look at what things cause hooves to grow faster, as well as what horseshoes do. We’ll also touch on why wild horses don’t commonly have issues with hoof quality. Read on to find out why horse hooves keep growing and more.
Why Do Horse Hooves Keep Growing?
Horse hooves keep growing because they need to. It’s essential to a horse’s health. By nature, these animals move around a lot. They walk a lot.
With every step a horse takes, his hoof wears down. The more steps taken, the more wearing down there is. So, an important part of caring for domestic horses is taking care of their hooves.
How Do Horse Hooves Grow?
Let’s look at how a hoof grows. Generally, the hooves are about 3 to 4 inches thick. Healthy adult horses experience between 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch of new growth each month.
New hoof growth takes place at the top of the hoof, where it connects to the leg. There’s something called the coronary band located there. When a horse walks, blood flow is stimulated, which sends more blood through to the coronary band. This causes hoof growth.
Most horses grow entirely new hooves every year. However, several factors affect the growth rate.
What Affects Hoof Growth?
Sometimes, a hoof grows faster. Below are some factors that affect hoof growth.
Age is a factor that affects the growth rate of horse hooves. The younger a horse is, the faster its hooves grow.
Younger horses have higher heart rates. The difference seen in the hoof growth rate is correlated to the difference in heart rates. A higher heart rate usually means more hoof growth. As horses age, their heart rates slow, thus their hoof growth rates do too.
Horses that are fed well and take in a lot of good nutrients tend to have faster hoof growth rates. You can supplement some nutrients to ensure healthy hooves.
Biotin supplements provide support for healthy hoof growth. They also improve hoof quality. Supplementation should not replace a healthy, balanced diet, though.
Horse hooves grow faster in spring than in any other season of the year. The cold winter months slow growth rates down a lot. This is especially true for those living in dynamic climates where the seasonal changes bring about more temperature fluctuation.
Horses that are highly exercised have faster-growing hooves. Though their heart rates are typically lower because of their conditioning, their hoof growth rates are higher.
More exercise counteracts the slower growth rate of horses with low heart rates. It’s likely due to the better blood flow provided by the conditioning. The oxygenated blood stimulates the coronary band, so the hooves grow faster.
What Causes Excessive Hoof Growth?
Excessive hoof growth may indicate something is wrong. There may be an injury to the laminae inside the hoof. Or an irritant might cause swelling to that soft tissue.
Laminitis is fairly common in horses. The lamina, a connective tissue located inside the hoof, swells due to some sort of irritation.
You can prevent or treat laminitis by sticking to a regular trim and shoe routine. You can also keep the toes short, as well as maintain support for the frog and sole.
Horses that get a lot of exercise grow hooves faster. Well-conditioned horses that eat a healthy diet will require more frequent visits from the farrier.
Horse owners are often baffled when one horse in the stable grows hooves much faster than the others in the same barn. They feed them all the same foods, provide all the same supplements, and exercise them on the same schedule, yet this one horse needs extra attention.
When all other factors are equal, the difference-maker may be genetics. Sometimes the growth rate comes down through the bloodline.
What Happens If Horses’ Hooves Are Not Trimmed?
Improperly trimmed hooves could be causing your horse a lot of pain. It can lead to infection and lameness that sometimes can’t be recovered from.
Horse hooves must be trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks, on average. The correct angle is about 50 degrees on the front of the toe to the ground. When you look at the rear side of the pastern, the angle should match between the front of the hoof and the back of the pastern.
If you don’t trim your horse’s hooves, his health will suffer. Eventually, the overgrown hooves will result in knee and other joint issues. Its likely infections will develop. The horse will likely be in a lot of pain.
Improper trimming leads to the same issues. If the hoof is trimmed to the wrong angle, it won’t support the pastern in the right position.
Why Don’t Wild Horses Have Overgrown Hooves?
Wild horses don’t have overgrown hooves because of natural hoof care. They travel up to 30 miles a day to find food and water, sometimes. All of that movement naturally wears down their hooves to healthy levels.
Why Do Wild Horses Not Need Shoes?
Wild horses often live balanced lives that result in the growth rate of their hooves matching the wear rate. They eat healthy foods in their environment and get plenty of exercise looking for the food.
Horseshoes provide domestic horses with a slower rate of wear on their hooves. Wild horses don’t require the wearing to slow down.
How Come Wild Horses Don’t Need Their Hooves Trimmed?
For the same reasons they don’t need shoes, wild horses also don’t need their hooves trimmed. These animals aren’t cared for by humans. Their food isn’t brought to them.
Wild horses must travel to different places, crossing various kinds of terrain. They seek out their food, water sources, and shelter. Wild horses maintain their hoof length by traveling miles and miles which leads to naturally trimmed hooves.
Should Domestic Horses Wear Horseshoes?
Domestic horses often wear horseshoes. However, it’s not always necessary. In fact, it may be healthier for some horses not to wear shoes.
Here’s a list of reasons why domestic horses should wear shoes:
- Trail ride – Horses serving on trail rides should wear shoes. Performing many trail rides causes an excess of wear on the hooves. Horseshoes protect the hooves from wearing down too much.
- Streetwalking – Horses working in police departments and serving in other professions should wear shoes. These horses often walk on paved surfaces that are hard and wear down hooves quicker.
- Hard ground – Any horse that’s ridden much on hard-packed ground should be shoed. the shoes raise the hoof off the ground, protecting the frog from injury. The frog is the soft tissue in the center of the hoof.
Domestic horses without reason to wear horseshoes may be better off going barefoot. You should keep an eye on the growth of the hooves and have them trimmed accordingly.
Do Horse Hooves Grow Forever?
Yes, they do. While they will slow down over time, horse hooves keep growing throughout their lives.
Hooves are made of keratin. It’s the same stuff your finger and toenails are made of. Our nails don’t stop growing until we die. The same is true of horse hooves. Just as most of us continue to trim our fingernails and toenails, you or your farrier must also continue to trim your horse’s hooves.
Why Do Horses Have Hooves?
We mentioned above that hooves are made of keratin, like our nails. But our nails don’t serve the same purpose that hooves do for horses. So, why do horses have hooves?
Horses have hooves to support their weight. The structure of their bodies means their feet are under tremendous pressure any time they’re standing. Add a rider to their back and it’s even more.
The hoof protects the soft frog inside. The frog has a complex purpose. It restricts blood flow to the feet when the horse is standing still. Then, when it runs, it allows the blood to flow back into the veins of the foot. Essentially, the hoof works with the heart to help it pump.
Hooves also act as shock absorbers. Healthy hooves are essential for promoting healthy joints.
Horse hooves grow through their entire lives. When horses walk, each step wears some of their hooves away. The hoof replenishes itself with perpetual growth.
Factors like age, season, nutrition, and exercise may greatly affect the rate at which the hooves grow. It’s important to assess these factors closely as they relate to your horses’ hoof growth rate. Make adjustments to any, as needed.
Horse hooves must be properly cared for so the animal stays healthy. Trimming and shoeing must be kept up with and performed by a properly trained professional to ensure the safety of each horse.