Sometimes infection is superficial but there are times when it can be so aggressive it can make a horse lame. Infection is a sign that there's a weakness in the immune system, so it's worth knowing for sure. You may be surprised... You might find you don't have nearly as much to worry about as you thought!
1. Is there any black stuff in the collateral grooves (grooves either side of the frog) or the central sulcus (dip in the middle of the frog)?
2. Does the central sulcus look like a deep slit?
3. Does the hoof smell?
4. Looking at the under side of the hoof, are there black lines running though the wall? (this will be easier to see when the hoof has been freshly rasped. If you have a rasp to hand you can take a gentle swipe across the hoof wall. You’re aiming to remove dirt, not hoof horn here!)
5. Are there any black bits in the white line?
Don’t put your nose up to the hoof, instead you can smell the hoof pick when you’ve just picked the hoof out if you need to. To be honest, if it’s that hard to smell, you’re probably ok. If you can smell the infection as soon as you’ve lifted the hoof up (or before) then that’s a firm yes!
You don’t have to trim your horse to see if there’s infection in the wall, but that’s when it’s easiest to see, so make sure you have a peek whenever the trim is being done.
For each 'YES' answer score 2 points.
If your score is 0:
YAY!!! Looks like there's no major problems to worry about.
If your score is 1-3:
Things are fairly good, there's no need to panic but there's room for a little improvement.
If your score is 4-6:
There's a few problems in this area. Something is out of balance and the whole system is beginning to show the strain. Doing a few of the other health checks may help you identify other areas that are feeling the pressure. If your score surprised you, it may be worth seeking further help and advice.
If your score is 7-10:
There are significant problems in this area. I strongly recommend you take action. Getting help from a professional with a proven track record may be necessary to get things back on track simply and quickly. It's likely that other systems are struggling under the strain as well so I'd recommend you do some of the other health checks too.