Hoof dressings aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be–at least not in the opinions of some experts. Ilka P. Wagner, DVM, owner of Equine Veterinary Services (Texas), and Susan Kempson, BSc, PhD, senior lecturer in Preclinical Veterinary Sciences in the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, have studied the efficacy of hoof dressings. Robert Sigafoos, Certified Journeyman Farrier, chief of farrier services and director of the Applied Polymer Research Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, bases his opinions (self-described as “subjective”) on 28 years of experience.

Purpose of Dressings

Hoof dressings are promoted to remedy cracks, splits, moisture loss, and associated lameness. Says Wagner, “Hoof dressings are commercially (prepared) or homemade external hoof wall applications that are ‘reputed’ to be beneficial to the growth, metabolism, and overall health of the equine hoof wall. Many products make label claims that they encourage hoof wall growth, strength-en the wall matrix, and even go so far as saying they prevent laminitis. They are available at most feed stores as well as over the Internet to the horse owner.”

There are three types of hoof wall dressings that claim to preserve moisture of the hoof wall. Wagner identifies them as:

  • Primarily petroleum oil-based–These are usually “gooey” or tarry products. Ingredients might include neatsfoot and/ or cod liver oil, pine tar, petroleum compounds, and/or turpentine.
  • Primarily lanolin-based–These are usually more the consistency of hand lotion. Ingredients might include lanolin, lactates, stearates, alcohols, and glycerin.
  • Primarily containing a drying agent–Ingredients might include acetone.

The question is