This summer we’ve been pinching ourselves here in Central Kentucky.

Usually by mid-August we’re resuscitating brown lawns (if we haven’t given up on yard care altogether), enduring scorching temperatures, hosing off horses midday to cool them down, and relishing in air conditioning, all the while beckoning autumn and its cooler days. By this time in recent years, horse owners in this area usually have begun stockpiling hay for the fall and winter based on anticipated shortage due to drought.

Instead we’ve experienced regular rainstorms—even deluges—leaving flooded pastures and drooling horses (from the abundant fresh clover) in their wake. My little yard in suburbia looks like a jungle, and the Thoroughbreds of the Bluegrass grazing in lush fields nearby appear fatter and sassier than ever. It has been a pleasant and beautiful season so far.

Our mild summer has had its flipside, of course. The wet-dry-wet-dry cycle can be a major pain in the tush, causing hoof cracks and lost shoes galore.

My mom, sister, and I battled these problems with my Thoroughbred Icy’s feet with the dewy summer grasses of Central Virginia (where I grew up). We needed to treat the scratches on his lower legs—fungal or bacterial skin infections that revved up about this time of year—all while keeping his hooves dry so they wouldn’t turn to crumbly messes. It was a daily conundrum, considering treatment approaches and turnout schedules, always asking the question, “Eliminate the funk or protect the integrity of the feet?”

Photo: Kevin Thompson/TheHorse.com

My colleagues here at The Horse are encountering the same problems with their horses’ feet this summer. Their descriptions are punctuated with words like “horrible” and “frustrating.” They’re trying a variety of management techniques and supplements, not unlike our experience with Icy years ago. 

The topic of horses’ feet issues does bring us all together, indeed, and this month's Hoof Care Special Issue our writers and editors cover a number of different foot topics. You can preview the excellent cover story, but here are some other August highlights that aren't available online:

  • There’s a phenomenal ‘hoof problem protocol’ chart, picturing each hoof issue and listing clinical signs, who to call, immediate treatment approaches, and guidelines for once the farrier and vet arrive.  It’s a pretty handy tool to have around when you’ve got a gimpy horse and don’t know what to do next.
  • Speaking of hoof problems, there’s also an article on club feet and on coffin bone fractures, and a quick-reference-type piece on thrush. (And suddenly I’m remembering the exact aroma of Kopertox.)
  • So many supplements, so little time to read about and understand them all. Dr. Nancy Loving sorts through the ways you can make well-informed equine supplement purchasing decisions.
  • Sure, we think about mosquitoes and flies when controlling pests on our properties, but what about carpenter bees, paper wasps, and spiders? There’s a great article on the other stable pests and what to do about them.
  • Also check out an article on facilitating international horse transport (while not compromising health) and a detailed illustration on the rare but very troublesome foot problem canker.

Finally, here are some fun facts about the cover and the opener photos for the cover story: These are my good friends Julia Skea and Dr. Montague Saulez, of Pretoria, South Africa, who stopped in for several days on their honeymoon tour of the Americas. Dr. Saulez and I have been friends for 13 years after meeting at an AAEP summer meeting in Orlando. Thank you, Monte and Julia, for your flexibility in being models during your travels. Our team that evening (Alexandra and Kevin) did a great job setting up and getting the shot, featuring the lovely senior lesson horse Quinn, the gorgeous farm property where Alexandra keeps her horses, and my Dubarry boots. And Quinn is quite the celebrity around the barn right now with a framed August cover in the tack room and on his stall door.

The Horse team hopes you take a look at these August offerings by picking up an issue, subscribing for a full year of the magazine in your mailbox, or even opting for a digital subscription.

How is the summer of 2013 impacting your horses’ feet? Subscribers, what's your favorite part about the August issue?