Winter Horse Care: Snowballs On Feet Logo

Question: Hi Julie,

I’m still a novice at horse care and management. Winter has arrived (northern Ohio) and I am trying to figure out the best way to deal with the snow and ice buildup in his hooves. I have been chipping the snow and ice out of his feet every morning when I feed. I’ve read a little about hoof pads and am just wondering what you suggest for handling this issue. Can you make any recommendations?


Answer: Deb,

From the sounds of it, I think the winter has been worse in your part of the country than here in the mountains of Colorado! Snowballs on the bottom of your horse’s feet are very uncomfortable for him and can cause a loss of balance and unnecessary wear and tear on the joints. If you are riding in the snow, it can definitely become a safety issue.

I prefer to pull my horse’s shoes in the winter, when we are riding less and mostly indoors, so that the hooves can grow healthier and so that they have better traction on the snow and ice. While snowballs will form on a barefoot too, it happens more often when they are shod and the metal shoes can be slick on the ice.

If your horse is barefoot or shod, you can slather the foot with petroleum jelly to keep the ice from building up on the bottom. This will help, but not completely prevent the build up of snow under the foot and the petroleum jelly wears off quickly.

If your horse is shod, you can have your farrier put snow pads between the hoof and the shoe. It is a rubber pad with a bubble in the middle that keeps snowballs from forming and gives him a little better traction too.

If there is a lot of ice and you will be riding in slick conditions, you might consider having your farrier weld some spots of borium onto the shoe. This gives the horse really good traction in the ice or on slick surfaces like pavement. But be aware that the additional friction will also cause stress to his joints; so use it with a great deal of discretion.

Winter horse care is quite challenging and although we can try to make things better, sometimes no matter what we do, dealing with the snow and ice is still a problem. But these things may help!


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