"The summers are so nice here, maybe I'll move my barn to Kentucky," I heard a hunter/jumper trainer from Texas say--only half-jokingly--last week.

Indeed, the Bluegrass has put on a great display of weather thus far during the Kentucky Horse Park's six-week stretch of AA-rated horse shows. Uncharacteristically cool temperatures coupled with frequent rain showers have resulted in lush green landscapes and pleasant days spent ringside. They've also brought with them a wealth of hoof-care woes as pastures and arenas alternate between dry and soggy.

Pastern dermatitis, or scratches, is one of several hoof-care challenges I've faced with my horses this summer.

Photo: Stephanie L. Church

While I've enjoyed riding and showing in milder-than-usual temperatures, I haven't enjoyed some of the hoof-related surprises I've been presented with. And if you're like me, you've had to figure out the best remedies mid-show season.

The following is a brief summary of the trouble my horses' hooves and legs have seen this summer:

  • May begins "scratches season" for my show hunter, Lily. She has always been prone to this irritating skin infection at the back of her hind fetlocks, where she has white socks. During the worse bouts her pasterns swell beyond recognition and painful, scabby lesions develop. Solution: Clean the area with an antibacterial towel and apply the barn "favorite" remedy of a Panalog (a combination antimicrobial and steroid) ointment, fenbendazole worming paste, and lotrimin antifungal cream combo.
  • The expansive hacking field looked far more enticing one day than the arena. Lily loses a shoe in the thick, slick grass. Solution: Wander the field on foot trying locate said expensive shoe. Give up after 45 minutes and call the farrier.
  • Barn manager calls, says my barefoot 5-year-old Hannah's feet are a chipped wreck due to the wet-dry environment. Solution: Have a chat with the farrier and switch to an every 4-5-week trim vs. every 6-8 weeks.
  • I hop on Lily for a typical mid-week hack and she feels like she's multiple-limb lame. Those darn scratches are back! She did not appreciate the arena footing kicking up on her sensitive hind legs. Solution: Before riding or turnout, we clean the scratches with antibacterial wipes, apply a generous amount of antiseptic wound powder or 100% tea tree oil, and then slide a cut-out tube sock over the affected part of the pastern to prevent dirt from irritating it while riding.
  • A toe crack creeping up Lily's right front hoof wall caps a rainy horse show weekend. Solution: It looks superficial, so I call the farrier out for a quick fix.
  • I've endured a summer-long battle with thrush in Hannah's otherwise healthy feet. Solution: Employ help from barnmates to pick her feet and apply Kopertox on days I can't get out to the barn.

It's now (sort of) nearing the end of summer. Hannah's feet are in better shape with more frequent trims (although she's still slightly thrushy), and we've nearly perfected Lily's daily limb-and-hoof-protection-while-riding routine: Medicate for scratches if needed, wrap legs, apply hoof polish and sealer, and don't forget the fleece-lined bell boots!

Your turn--how has summer impacted your horse's feet?