How to Care for your Horse's Hooves

Whether your horse is shod (fitted with shoes) or unshod (barefoot), it’s important to regularly care for their precious hooves. Hooves help protect the horse’s sensitive feet, distribute their weight, and allow them to run over any terrain. Hooves are made mostly of keratin (the same stuff that makes nails and horns) and your horse’s hooves support their daily movements and overall balance. They also constantly grow — just like our hair and fingernails — so they need regular trimming, cleaning and protection. Here are some simple ways you can care for your horse’s hooves.

 

Pick Daily

Picking out your horse’s feet is a great way to maintain healthy hooves and notice any common hoof problems before they get any worse. Gently lift up the hoof, rest the leg between your knees and use a hoof pick to investigate and scrape in and around the bars and frog areas. This is where dirt, stones and other bits and pieces can get caught. If your horse is shod, also look out for horseshoe wear and tear, pinching and loose nails. We love: Wahl Hoof Pick, $21.95

Next, gently rinse the hoof area, pat dry and finish with a spray-on, protective formula such as Effol Dragon’s Blood Film Plaster — the natural plant resin helps prevent cracking, disinfects the hoof and shields the softer sole and frog from dirt.

 

Trimming

Wild horses naturally wear down their hooves by travelling kilometres a day on diverse terrain – but domesticated horses who are stabled or in softer paddocks need regular hoof trimming. While you can do it yourself — it’s a tricky art and it’s best to have an experienced and trusted farrier to help care for your horse’s hooves. If you want to try some basic trimming techniques, you will need to learn the basic anatomy of the hoof, invest in a good farrier kit like this one, and know where to and where not to trim.

Here’s a general guide:

A basic DIY trim
  • Soften the hooves before trimming by soaking in water for about 20 minutes. Hard hooves are harder to trim!

  • Lift up your horse’s foot and position the leg between your knees carefully, so you have a good view of the hoof from toe to heel for cleaning and trimming.

  • Clean the hoof with your pick, then carefully trim the chalky dead flesh on the sole and frog.

  • Now it’s time to nip off the outer hoof wall with hoof nippers.

  • Finally, file down the hoof wall until it's nicely balanced, with a quality rasp and finish with an application of nourishing hoof dressing.

Your Trim Toolkit
Diamond Hoof Nipper, $234.95
Hoof Cleaning Brush, $5.95
NRG Stride Hoof Dressing, $34.95
Professional Easy-Grip Rasp, $39.95 

 

Find a trusted farrier

Remember, trimming can be difficult, so it’s a good idea to also work with a farrier (a trained specialist in equine hoof care) — especially if you are a new horse owner. Take your horse to the farrier about every 6-8 weeks for trimming, reshoeing, and overall hoof maintenance. An experienced farrier will help keep your horse’s hooves healthy, nourished and balanced.  

 

Protect

Get into the habit of applying a daily hoof ointment, gel or an all-natural grease to keep your horse’s hooves flexible, hydrated and protected from the elements. If your horse is often in wet conditions, the hoof can soften and can even lead to thrush, so a protective ointment is important. Especially beneficial in the cold, wet season, Effol Winter Hoof Gel penetrates deeply, helps prevent cracking and shields from damp, muddy conditions. If you do notice thrush in the hoof (black discharge, foul odour and perhaps lameness) apply Leovit Frogmedic Spray and always consult your veterinarian or farrier for expert advice and care.

 

Nutrition

A healthy horse equals healthy hooves and to boost growth and strength, you can add a supplement like biotin (Vitamin B7) into your horse’s feeding plan. Base your horse’s diet on quality foraging for loads of natural biotin production and boost with 20mg of biotin per 500kg bodyweight to help the formulation of keratin for strong hooves.

 

Extra Protection When Your Horse Needs It

Hoof boots can offer temporary protection for your horse if they have tender, sore feet or have cracked a horseshoe. They can also shield barefoot horses over tough terrain or keep the hoof enclosed if you’ve had to apply medicine to the sole or frog. A study by Western Kentucky University Equine Science Department discovered that the Cavallo Trek Hoof Boot minimised hoof damage, increased traction and gave the horse comfort: Cavallo Trek Hoof Boot, $99.95.