Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse magazines.

Here he reproduces in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of them common problems which afflict horses.

To access Topics click on Vet Advice Menu.

How can I improve his hooves?
Q: When I bought my first horse a welsh cob section D had full-length sandcracks right and left hind hoofs.

Our problem is that he has flat soles and big frogs. So when he stands without his shoes he stands on his frogs. My farrier says that is uncomfortable for him. I s there anything I can give him to make his outer horn grow better and more quickly?

A: Sandcracks are the type of injury that start at the top of the hoof and work downwards. They can have been caused by damage to the top of the hoof from where the horn has been produced.

Alternatively incorrect trimming of the feet may cause them or poor conformation from birth such as you describes: low heels and long toes. I suggest that the cracks have appeared over time because of the way that his legs are made. The most important steps to take are to get your farrier to change the angel of the hoof gradually so that less pressure is put on the frogs. If this works it will take up to two years to make a difference.

As far as supplements go, use products that contain biotin, methionine and /or MSM. One extra plant that I find helpful and that I have mentioned before in letters is Cissus Quadrangularis and we have found  Rather like herbs like comfrey or knitbone, this cactus like plant improves the way that calcium and other minerals are transferred form the intestines to the cells in the hoof and bone that need them. It also contains natural biotin.

There are a great variety of different hoof products on the market, which makes life for people like yourself quite confusing, but a combination of the above plants and chemicals is the best solution, together with a good mineral formula. You will need to use feed supplements for at least a year to see a marked improvement.

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