Hoof care is one of the most important aspects of quality horse management. Hoof trimming, shoeing if necessary, good nutrition to ensure good hoof growth, and inspection for disease or injury to the foot are just a few of the tasks a horse owner needs to worry about. Yet no matter how much attention is paid to these steps, if your horse’s feet are constantly wet, this can create a disastrous situation for proper hoof health.
A Product of His Environment
Water is nature’s hoof moisturizer, but moderation is key. Too much moisture can lead to deformed hooves because as the hoof becomes softer, it loses its structural integrity. Prolonged and excessive environmental moisture leads to dangerously high hoof moisture levels.
To better understand hooves getting saturated, Stephen O’Grady, DVM, MRCVS, owner of the Northern Virginia Equine practice in Marshall, Va., gives the analogy of water’s effects on a board: "If you pour water over a board, the water will run off the board. But if you tie a rock to the board and submerge it in a water trough, the board will become saturated, become soft, and eventually fall apart.
"The horse is a product of his environment, and if he lives in a dry area, he’s going to have dry feet. But if he lives in a moist area, he’s going to have softer feet," he adds. "A horse from Florida does not have the same cup in the bottom of the foot as a horse in the North." This is due to softer hoof walls from excessive humidity coupled with the sandy soil (the primary type of footing); this combination causes the sole of the foot to flatten.