Horse Hoof Health

Hoof Care Cautions & Tips for Your Equine


Horse hoof care is vital to healthy, happy horses and impacts the horse’s ability to run, jump, do farm work, compete, ride trails, and interact with owners and other horses. Hooves must be tended to properly for overall good equine health.
Environmental and weather elements, riding terrain, turnout frequency, horseshoes, heredity and nutrition all play roles in horse hoof health.

In Okeechobee County, UF/IFAS Extension hosted a ranch horse seminar in January at the Buck Daniel Ranch. It was designed to offer information that was practical to a working horseman. Tips and valuable information was given for those new to working with horses and for practiced horsemen.

The event featured several regional speakers with expertise in horsemanship, husbandry, and veterinary medicine.
The event began with a keynote speaker, Gene Cox, who talked about improving the equity of your horse. His message was that what effort and care you put into your horse responsibility will determine what you gain. He advised patience, be consistency and appropriate use of tools and gear.

A panel of horse experts was introduced and they tackled a variety of questions based on horse type, training type, confirmation, and tack. Panel members were Billy Adams, Gene Cox, Jason Hanchey, Randy Barthle, and Cliff Coddington.
One of the keynote topics covered at the event also included tips on managing your horse’s hooves and keeping them healthy. Here are some important tips and reminders when it comes to your horse’s hoof health.

Hoof Care in Six Steps

Clean Out Hooves Daily: Remove dirt, rocks, grass and manure with a hoof pick. Follow with a stiff-bristle brush to clean debris from the sole, which should be visible at all times. Clean each hoof every day — especially before and after pasture work, trail rides or turnout. This allows for removal of any caught debris before it can damage or injure the hoof. Check for signs of cracks, thrush, puncture wounds or abscesses.
Inspect Shoes: Check for horseshoes that may be sprung — pulled away or bent — or shifted (moved to the side). Inappropriately shod hooves are susceptible to injury from the metal shoe or its clinches or nails. Farriers often will teach owners how to remove a thrown shoe — which could help save horse hooves. Buy a hoof repair kit.
Feed for Healthy Hooves: Use a hoof supplement with your horse’s diet. Most contain vitamins and minerals such as biotin and zinc to help maintain and encourage hoof growth. Check with your veterinarian for assistance in making sure your horses are dining on feed to that meets the nutritional needs of a horse.
Maintain Hoof Moisture: A topical conditioner can help control hoof water loss and absorption. Wet weather, dewy pastures and muddy paddocks can cause hooves to soften. Dry, hot weather can cause hooves to break, crack, contract or grow brittle. Wet or dry weather may leave hooves susceptible to injury and infection. It can take more than a year for hooves to grow in and replace a break high on the hoof wall.
No Mud Mucking: Prolonged exposure to mud can alter hoof moisture content, cause thrush or other infections and loosen shoes. Mud exposure can cause a horse to slip, fall and break a leg or injure joints. Level pastures out, and be sure to fill holes to help prevent water from gathering and forming mud. A run-in shelter offers horses protection and dry ground.
Encourage Exercise: Activity helps promote hoof growth, strength and health. Equestrian-approved games, such as horse soccer, can help keep horses active and playful. If space is a concern, build a protected pasture with an electric fence. Horses may be exercised in the paddock with a lunge line.

Indicators of good equine hoof health

  • A lustrous, naturally glossy hoof wall.
  • A smooth, uniform hoof wall, without cracks, rings, flares, etcetera.
  • A hoof wall with a thickness of about 3/8″ that tapers smoothly towards the heel.
  • A rubbery, resilient frog twice as long as it is wide, and without deep cracks.
  • A concave sole that only touches a shoe or pavement where it joins the wall.
  • A hoof that sheds dust, mud and water.

Like most animals, it all starts from the foundation and works its way up. Maintaining proper hoof care is a main factor in keeping your horse functioning and more importantly, happy and healthy. By staying proactive in your equine’s hoof care, you’ll be sure to stay a step ahead of any serious issues down the road.

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