Horses hoofcare in the Australian Outback is very important as the Australian environment is very hard on horses feet. In this article we review the 4 steps to assess the condition of horses feet and the tools needed to maintain them.
When stock horses are being used during mustering season, they generally need to be shod with steel horseshoes to protect their feet. Traveling long distances on varying terrain, in varying climatic conditions, with a rider on their back, definitely has an impact on your horses hoof. Horses that are in this situation, need to be carefully maintained in order to ensure soundness of the horse (no injuries in the hoof), and the ability to perform at its best to get the job done.
What do I need to do look at when assessing horses feet?
At the beginning of the Mustering season, you need to assess the condition of your horses feet:
- Are the feet sound for the job at hand?
- Do the hooves need trimming, tidying up and shoeing?
- Do you have the right horseshoes and horseshoe nails suited to the type of hoof – by this I mean does your horse have thick or thin walled hooves?
- Assess a plan for regular maintenance ?
Regular shoeing of your horse, ensures that your horse stays sound and grows a strong, healthy hoof wall.
Lets review the above 4 steps to ensure you have the right tools to look after your horses hooves successfully.
STEP 1 – Are the feet sound for the job at hand?
Do you have access to a person who is qualified to assess your horses, ideally a Farrier, Veterinarian or an experienced Stockperson? Once you have made that assessment, you will be in a position to determine if your horse/s are going to be suitable for the jobs ahead.
STEP 2 – Do the hooves need trimming, tidying up and shoeing?
If you have not ridden your horses for sometime, it is almost certain its feet will need trimming or tidying up of some sort.
I cannot recommend enough that if you are performing hoof maintenance, you need to make sure you have good tools. This makes your job easier and it is more comfortable for the horse as quality tools are always better.
Mustad Australia stocks a range of tools, including the entry level brand of tools, the EDGE range – these are a good quality product that are ideal if you are attending to 0-10 horses per month. Mid range is the Mustad Black tools – this range comes in a protective tool box that is ideal for storage. The Mustad Black tools are a proven quality and the most popular range of tools Mustad Australia sells. Finally there is the Premium range is the Mustad Premium tools – Mustad Australia’s highest quality range of tools suited to the Professional farrier.
Mustad Australia also supplies quality tool kits, which are ideal for remote locations where you are only going to use these tools sparingly. The Mustad Black Tool Kits, come in three ranges as follows:
- Mustad Farrier Toolbox – a full kit that is ideal for shaping and fitting horseshoes. I prefer hot fitting as I have been doing this for 57 years, however, you can also shape shoes cold if you do not have access to a forge. This kit does not include an Anvil or a Hoof Stand, however I recommend the O’Dwyer 20Kg Anvil as you can fit most shoes on this little anvil and it gives you the benefit of being somewhat portable and the Hoofhelper Hoof Stand.
- Mustad Trim Kit – this kit is ideal for trimming the horses hooves with all the tools you need to trim the hoof.
- Mustad Emergency Shoe Removal Kit – ideal for those rides that are remote. It has all the tools you need to safely remove a shoe that may have come loose, which will be better for the health of the hoof if the shoe is removed correctly.
- In addition, Mustad stock the Edge Tool Kit – which is a good entry level tool kit, comprising a range of tools incased in a leather tool bag.
You can learn more about these kits by viewing the video below.
I also strongly recommend when maintaining horses hoofcare in the Australian Outback that you invest in a a good quality Farrier Apron, like the Silverback, O’Dwyer, Derby or Edge. This makes the job of the farrier much easier, as well as gives comfort to the horse, because when you are wearing an apron and the horses leg is between your legs, the apron wraps around the hoof, which in my experience seems to make the horse more comfortable.
For more information on the range of Farrier Aprons available, watch the video below.
CARL’S TOP TIP – Storage of your tools when not in use is important. These tools are all made from quality steel, however they can rust if they are exposed to damp environments. I suggest after use, that the tools are sprayed with a oil or lubricant and stored in tool bag or wrap which keeps them free from dampness. The Mustad Black range of tools have their own protective tool box that is ideal for long period of storage. After use, wipe the tools free of debris and spray them with a lubricant/oil for storage, and you can rest assured that when you are ready to use them again, they will be in good shape.
STEP 3 – Do you have the right horseshoes and horseshoe nails suited to the type of hoof – by this I mean does your horse have thick or thin walled hooves?
Selection of the right horseshoes and nails is extremely important to keeping your horse sound. Selecting the wrong product, can harm your horse and its ability to perform at its best. The first consideration is what type of horse do you have? Generally in remote area’s of Australia most horses are Australian Stockhorse, and also Thoroughbred crosses. In most cases (not all) this will mean your horse will have a thin to medium wall thickness. The shoes I recommend for this type of horse and also for Mustering work is as follows:
The O’Dwyer FHS, SHS and NZ Concave shoes offer good protection for your horse and have a shape that is easy to fit. The shoes are made from mild carbon steel, so they will be a little easier to shape by hand. Please bear in mind that shaping steel shoes cold will always be harder to shape than when they are hot.
The St Croix Concorde Xtra steel shoes are specifically designed for Thoroughbreds with thin walls. The shoe is 8mm thick and offers excellent coverage for protection from hard surfaces. The front shoes are the same shape, however please bear in mind, the hinds shoes are shaped A-Symmetrically, meaning that the hind shoes are shaped into left and right hind shoes. This is clearly identified on the shoe, so you will need to ensure you fit the shoes to the right hoof.
Shoes should not be fitted out of the packet/box without shaping to the horses hoof after the hoof has been trimmed. As a tip, when shaping shoes to fit the hoof, I suggest that the shoes are fitted to the front half of the hoof first, then the heels are either closed in or straightened out. This makes the shoe fit a lot easier.
In terms of nail selection, it is important that you select the appropriate nail that fits the shoe. If you use a nail that is too big for the shoe, it will not lock up on the nail hole correctly and shoes become loose and likely fall off. Most importantly, if you use a nail that is too large for a thin walled horse, it causes nail trauma, which can split the inside section of the hoof wall, creating hoof wall weaknesses (such as Quarter cracks, white line trauma, and other problems). It is so important you select the correct shoes and nails for your horse. All of the nails Mustad Australia sell today, including Mustad, Derby and Rifle horseshoe Nails, are available in original sizes as well as slim sizes. Examples are as follows:
- Mustad BH.5 horseshoe Nails are also available in a Mustad BH.5Slim
- Mustad E.4 horseshoe Nails also available in Mustad E.4Slim
- Derby E.3 horseshoe Nails also available in Derby E.3Slim
- Derby E.4 horseshoe Nails also available in Derby E.4Slim
- Rifle-Aussie E.5 horseshoe Nails also available in Rifle-Aussie E.5Slim
Mustad is the leader in Horseshoe Nail innovation and design, and for several years now the slim range of nails have been available, that are thinner, yet just as strong as the original nails – with the added benefit of being better for the horses hoof. The Mustad nails I use today are Mustad Slim Horseshoe nails.
STEP 4 – Assess a plan for regular maintenance of your horses hooves
Plan when your horse will need shoeing in the future, using a 5 or 6 week cycle, as this allows the foot to grow and be safely trimmed, with shoes either refitted or replaced (depending on wear of the shoes).
Make sure you have the right equipment on hand to perform the job (Mustad tool kits mentioned above), as well as the replacement shoes and nails.
If you are refitting steel shoes, please make sure you are aware that you may need to use a larger nail if the nail holes in the shoe have worn and become larger. You will need to bear in mind that using larger nails on thin walled hooves can cause nail trauma (as mentioned previously). If you are not sure, it is always best to fit new shoes with the right nail, instead of taking the risk of refitting older shoes with larger nails.
Hopefully you have learnt about looking after Horses Hooves in the Australian Outback. For information on all the products featured in this Blog go to www.mustad.com.au and through your local Mustad dealers.