It is surprising how many people have horses and pay little attention to their hooves. (The horses hooves I mean).
A horses hooves need to be trimmed on a regular basis. Some times 4 weeks sometimes 6 weeks. Rarely longer than that between trimming. If the conditions are right, that is you are riding on relatively soft ground not hard roadways or rocks, you might be able to forego having shoes on the hooves . At least during light exercise. However, if you are riding a great deal or jumping, barrel racing, calf roping etc. it is definitely a good idea to have shoes on.
Shoes on the hooves protect the delicate hoof wall from being bruised and or chipped. This kind of damage can lead to separated hoof walls or abscesion from bruises forming blood clots which then can become grow bacteria and form hoof abscesses. Hoof abscesses are extremely painful for the horse. This is because there is really no room in the hoof for swelling to occur. Thus any accumulation of fluid or blood in the laminar spaces or between the wall, sole and softer tissue in the foot causes severe pain. This why a hoof abscess causes a horse to keep the foot off the ground.
When you encounter any kind of pain in the horses hoof you should call you veterinarian immediately. You do this not only because the horse is in pain, but also because an abscess in the foot can cause secondary inflammation leading to laminitis. Laminitis can cause permanent lameness and even lead to death, either by euthanasia or by secondary shock and infection. Your veterinarian will be able to drain the abscess properly and may want to work with your farrier to trim the foot medically.
It is not always necessary to have shoes on your horses feet. Many people ride horses with healthy feet, without shoes. Staying aware of the condition of the hooves is important when you do not provide shoes, as the feet wear off with every ride. However, as long as they stay healthy and evenly worn you should not have a problem. After all, wild horses never wear shoes.
Good hoof health is important because without the hoof there is no horse. One way to help ensure health feet, in addition to proper trimming is to provide good nutrition.
Vitamin supplements are one way to help especially if they contain some levels of Biotin. Biotin is used by the horse to make stronger hooves, help them grow faster and help keep them from chipping and cracking.
We like to use Equivite® vitamin supplement for our horses because it contains adequate amounts of many vitamins and especially Biotin for good healthy feet. You can purchase Equivite® at any tack or feed shop and also on line at Equivite.us.