The winters have become longer and harder in the past few years. How can we help our horses in slippery conditions?
Follow these tips to look after your horse's hooves this winter:
Always carry a hoofpick in your pocket, preferably a foldable one, to dislodge snow balls.
Consider studding options: speak to your farrier about either permanent road studs or screw-ins.
If you are hit by a surprise storm and your horse doesn't have pads or traction devices on, you can try all the old wives' tales. My favorite is spraying "Pam" cooking oil on the feet. I've also heard of using bear grease, Vaseline, pine tar, bacon fat, Crisco, and old motor oil (yuck!). Smear any or all of those things on your horses' feet and go to work; possibly something will work for you.
If a prolonged period of snow looks likely, ask your farrier if he would be happy to fit snow pads.
Always dry off legs and heels when your horse comes in — snow melts and causes the same conditions that provoke mud fever.
Keep plenty of salt, sand or shavings handy to prevent the barn turning into an ice rink. Or, roll out the carpet. Or at least an old rug. Keep your eyes open on trash day and you will find your town's streets lined with old carpets that are being thrown out. Then, if a bad ice storm hits suddenly and you need to get a horse across a frozen parking lot, those old rugs can be put to good use. They need to be used safely (check the backing; position them so that they won't slip; use common sense).