Although for many of us time has seemed to stand still since we are on stall rest with at best minimal hand walking, the seasons are changing. We are in the transition from winter to spring or what is fondly called “mud season”. This occurs in other parts of the country at differing times depending on location and does not have to be associated with a cold winter and frozen ground. We see the same issues in areas that receive “spring showers”. Yes, spring showers bring May flowers but along with it comes several seasonal issues with our horses.
This first thing mentioned was foot problems. These problems range from “soft” feet to increased incidences of thrush. Based on some research done with Brumbies in Australia, Chris Pollitt’s group demonstrated that environment moisture has little if any effect on hoof wall moisture. In this study 40 feral horses from 3 different environments; wet and boggy (10); partially flooded (20); and constantly dry desert (10). Their finding revealed regardless of environment hoof wall moisture was not different and was 29.6%, 29.5% and 29.5% for each of the above groups, respectively. They suggested that soaking a horse’s foot regularly in water will unlikely change the hoof wall moisture. As part of this study they used 6 Quarter Horses to access the effect of soaking the hoof for 2 hours and measuring moisture in the sole and hoof wall. While hoof wall moisture was not altered with soaking, hoof sole moisture was increased. This group suggest architecture of the hoof wall and sole are similar the sole seems to be more porous and is more affected by environmental factors. As such, horses exposed to wet environments, e.g. “mud season” may experience more sole bruising and abscesses. Increased moisture and poor foot care, not cleaning on a regular basis, often lead to thrush.
While we can’t stop the rain or slow melting of frozen ground, there are some things we can do to possibly minimize the negative effects of “Mud Season”. It may be beneficial to apply a quality hoof dressing product to the sole of the foot as often as feasible during this time of year. These types of products generally do a great job in minimizing moisture loss from the hoof wall and therefore may do a good job of decreasing moisture absorption through the sole. This will also allow you to examine the foot for other issues such as thrush, bruising, or abscesses. If thrush is found, treating with a quality thrush treatment can begin early and remedy the problem sooner.