“If you can be a farrier in Florida you can be a farrier anywhere.”
Larry Brown ,South Florida Farrier.
Water may be fine for pelicans to stand in and walk over but not so much for horses. The problems that water causes are most often seen in horses that live in Florida year round. In a wet and tropical environment “the feet basically fall apart”, my Florida farrier Larry Brown told me. I have learned in the winters I have spent down here that the Florida paddocks can be deceptive. After a heavy rain I may see some visible puddles and flooded areas but there also appears to be areas that are not waterlogged. However once you walk out onto the grass you find that the tops of the blades of grass are above the water and make it appear to be dry but in fact there is standing water at the base of the grass. It’s a wetland.
The Everglades National park is the largest subtropical wetland in the USA. But prior to human habitation in South Florida and the creation of lakes, canals and ponds to channel the water and dry out the land for development, much of south Florida was a wetland. You only have to look at the wide array of hoof care products designed to keep water out and off the hoof that can be found in any tack shop or feed store to know that there is a problem for horse’s feet. Larry Brown says the best thing is not to turn out when it is wet but if there is no alternative to turnout in the wet then he recommends using products that when applied properly to the hoof can help.
He told me that the hoof needs a dry environment: “If it is wet for too long you have serious problems as the hoof just begins to disintegrate leaving very little hoof to attach a shoe to.” If the hoof has suffered badly some owners will choose glue on shoes and this can help. If the glue on shoe will stay on for 6-8 weeks then the hoof has a chance to grow back. Then perhaps there is enough hoof to attach a shoe.
For horses coming down from the North this is not such a big problem as they have the summer up north and a chance for their feet to be dry. But even for these horses the wetness must be considered especially in a year when there is a lot of rain. This year has seen a much wetter winter than normal. In January the Winter Equestrian Festival showground was flooded with 6 inches of rain in a single day. Also as it is a warmer climate so horses are bathed more often. Even on the cooler days I will bathe my horse Biasini’s lower legs to make sure they are clean and there is been no cut or scratch on his legs. I always use a hoof hardener ,Keratex,as he has thin soles and this helps him both in Florida and at home. When I’m in Florida I am religious about it and apply it to the sole twice a week and following Larry Brown’s recommendation once a week I apply a barrier such as Tuff Stuff around the hoof wall as well to help repel water. Larry does this after he has trimmed and shod the horses as some of the periople of the hoof wall will have been removed while cleaning the hoof.
During the winter season Larry will look after a number of horses who have come down from the North for the winter season. Is it difficult doing the feet of horses that are done by a different farrier for several months of the year? “It’s not too bad,” he says “for the horses I do most of the farriers up north do the same things I do so it is easy.”
This winter there have been several days when the horses have not been turned out due to flooding and standing water in the paddocks. I like to have Biasini turned out but having heard from Larry about the consequences I am happy to have him in for a few days and his feet dry. After all “no hoof, no horse!”