4 Horse Hoof Hardening Tips

Overly moist, as well as dry and brittle, hooves tend to break and bruise. They can leave horses footsore or make holding shoes difficult. Here, veterinarians and farriers offer advice on hardening your horse’s hooves.
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4 Horse Hoof Hardening Tips
Good maintenance—both of the horse and his living area—goes a long way in hardening hooves. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
The inconsistent wet-dry, freeze-thaw conditions of mud season wreak havoc on hooves. “Moisture expands a hoof wall, and when it dries out it contracts again,” said Amy Rucker, DVM, a Missouri-based veterinarian. Repeated contraction and expansion can weaken hooves, making them more prone to cracks and bruises.

“A hoof can’t harden as quickly as the ground freezes when temperatures drop (after warm daytime temperatures),” said Heath Lash, a certified farrier from Angola, Indiana. “That’s when chunks are broken out of the hoof wall and hooves weaken.”

Good maintenance—both of the horse and his living area—goes a long way in hardening hooves. Follow these four tips this season.

1. Keep the horse’s environment clean.

Whether a horse has access to a stall or is on full turnout, providing a dry area free from mud and excess manure is key to promoting hoof health. If the horse doesn’t have stall access, improve drainage around shelter areas so he has space to get out of wet mucky areas, allowing his hooves time to dry. For horses with stall access, picking their feet and giving them time in a clean, bedded stall, helps, Rucker said

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Written by:

Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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