Seasons Affect Travel Patterns and Hoof Growth in Horses

January 12, 2015 (published)

A study was recently published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science concerning the movement of horses and hoof growth. In most horses, the hoof grows about 8-10 mm per month, but this rate can possibly be affected by age, breed, nutrition and environment. As far as movement, horses in the wild travel 16 to 20 hours per day and this pattern is important for the horse's psychological well-being. This is probably why we have so many problems with horses that are stalled most of the time as stalling is unnatural for horses.

The study performed at the University of Connecticut looked at 10 horses that were stalled for about seven hours per day and turned out the rest of the time with GPS trackers. All horses were trimmed and reshod every 6 weeks and hoof growth was checked. Results indicated that front and rear hooves grew the same amount and there was no difference in hoof growth between geldings and mares. Hoof growth in the winter was decreased and hooves grew more in the fall than any other season so your horse may need to be trimmed more often in the fall and less often in winter. Surprisingly, the average distance the horses travelled was about equal in all seasons. The horses actually moved farther from the barn area in spring and summer but although horses stayed around the barn and feeding area for shelter in the winter, GPS trackers indicated they still took as many steps in the fall and winter, just in a different direction. So although the horses moved in a smaller area in the winter, they still covered the same amount of distance. This information suggests that regardless of the weather, horses need to be turned out to maintain natural travel patterns.

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