Much Needed Hoof Care Program Should Start Soon

Over the past year or so we’ve seen an increase in hoof problems among Abaco’s Wild horses. These problems are in addition to the wounds caused by roofing nails which surrounded a construction site. The horses used to spend a lot of time in the pine forest which has a very hard, rocky floor. Since food was sparse, the horses had to wander long distances over the rough ground and their hooves stayed in good shape.

After Hurricane Floyd the fires set by hunters and farmers were much worse than usual because of all the downed and dead trees. There were places where the fires encroached on the farm itself and scorched citrus trees. The horses started spending more and more time on the farm which is covered with a layer of soil and very lush fodder between the rows of citrus trees.

The horse trails have grown over, the old water holes aren‘t used. And the horses’ hooves are becoming badly overgrown. It is this overgrowth that caused the death of the mare Atria (see article).

We are hoping to start a hoof care program very soon. The horses are feral, and very ‘up’ so normal tranquilizers simply don’t work. We are trying to obtain a supply of tranquilizer that can have an initial dose delivered by blow pipe which will at least slow each individual down enough so that further tranquilizer can be delivered as needed.

Then each hoof will be trimmed, the horse’s teeth will be checked along with a general check up and a blood sample will be drawn. We hope to be able to do this at least once a year, though twice would be better. We hope that some of the mares who have become less shy around humans will eventually have their feet treated without tranquilization.

The Humane Society of the United States facilitated the award of a small grant from the Alice Morgan Wright - Edith Goode Fund to get the program started.

Currently there is much interest in comparing and studying the hooves of feral horses in the hopes that the generally poor condition of domestic horses can be improved. The deterioration of our horses’ hooves since their move toward a more sedentary and domestic lifestyle points again to the fact that horses are animals evolved to keep moving over at least moderately rough ground.

The lesson here of course is that the horses really must be returned to their original forest habitat as soon as possible. The move is long over due. We are hoping that our continuing efforts to alert the government of the Bahamas to the need for a preserve eventually will result in having the preserve become a reality.

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