How to Care for Your Horse's Hooves

Hoof Care Tips

by Stefanie Reinhold

No hoof, no horse... we all know the old saying. And in spite of modern hoof care products, many horses have hoof problems like brittle, dry, flaking or soft hooves that worry and often puzzle their owners.

The good news is: While the basic consistency of your horse's hoof is genetic, there is still much room for improvement with the right care!

How to Choose The Right Hoof Care Product for Your Horse
Go to our handy "Hoof Care Product Selector" chart.

The Four Factors that Determine Horse Hoof Health

1. Genetics

Every horse comes equipped with his own genetic make-up and heritage, not only determining conformation and ability, but also factors like hair color, hair thickness and hoof quality. This is what you have to work with!

horse hooves

2. Feed

Today, most horses are well-cared for. Most horses receive all the feed and nutrients they could possibly need - and then some! Every farrier will know of horses suffering from sub-clinicial laminitis, for example, due to improper feed - mostly too rich, too sweet, too much! If your horse suffers from hoof problems of any kind, your first go-to topic should be FEED! Get advice from an equine nutritionist and remember the mantra: Less is (possibly) more! Consider doing without:

  • Sweet feed
  • Sweet treats
  • Unlimited access to lush pastures
Consider incorporating:
  • Biotin supplement
  • Salts & Minerals
  • Proteins
  • Herbal products
  • Brewer's yeast

When it comes to hoof health, feed is an important factor!

horse eating grass

3. Environment

Your horse's environment is an equally important factor. In an environment with excessive moisture or exposure to acidic waste (urine) or one that harbor fungus and bacteria (soiled paddocks or damp stalls), you will fight an uphill battle, trying to get your horse's hoof healthy. Hoof problems from soiled or constantly damp environments:

  • Thrush
  • Infections
  • While line disease
  • Cracks
Conditions that destroy hooves:
  • Excess moisture (soggy pastures, muddy paddocks)
  • Environments changing from extreme moisture to dryness 
  • Exposure to acidic waste (urine-soiled and manure-soiled bedding or paddocks, for example)
  • Fungi, bacteria and the environments they thrive in (think dirty and moist!)
  • Moving on soft, moist grounds 24/7
Conditions that help your horse's hooves stay healthy:
  • Moist, but not wet pastures and paddocks
  • Clean, manure-free paddocks
  • Clean, urine-free stall bedding
  • Exposure to various surfaces (lime, gravel, etc.)
Clean environments are essential for healthy hooves.

4. Hoof Care

Hoof care is important but truly comes last as hoof care alone cannot make up for any of the unfavorable conditions around feed & environment. Hoof care can - however - provide the best possible support for healthy hooves, no matter what the genetic make-up of your horse's hoof may be. That is - if you follow the basic care routines and choose the right products to support your horse's hoof health. Hoof Care Steps:

  1. Clean
    1. Pick hooves daily, get into crevices to remove small pebbles that cause mechanical damage and caked-on dirt where fungi and bacteria thrive
    2. Scrape out the narrow space between hoof wall and sole (if any) to make sure small pebbles and debris does not get lodge and bacteria and fungi cannot settle.
    3. For ease, use a hoof pick that has a brush and a flat scraper to clean the hoof sole.
    4. You can use a brass 'grout brush' from the hardware store for tough dirt in crevices, if needed.
    5. Pick hooves before and after working the horse.
  2. Wash (if needed)
    1. A bucket with clear water, a rag and a hoof brush is all you need.Apply water to the hoof with a rag, then let it soak a minute, brush the dirt off with the hoof brush, and clean the hoof with your rag or rinse.
  3. Dry
    1. Either wait for the hoof to dry or pat dry with a rag.
  4. Treat
    1. Apply hoof conditioner to the dry hoof (see the hoof product selection chart below).
    2. Apply any special hoof treatment (thrush preventative, etc.) at this time.
  5. Repeat
    1. Make this part of your grooming routine.
    2. Clean the feet, even if you don't have time for any other grooming tasks.
pick hoof wash horse hoof
  • Pick
  • Wash
  • Dry
  • Treat
How to Choose the Right Hoof Care Product

Hoof care products should be

  • As natural as possible

  • Free of harsh chemicals

  • Proven and recommended by professionals

  • Easy to use (not too messy)

  • Serve a specific purpose (one solution does not fit all!)

Use our handy chart find the right hoof care product for your horse

Hoof Care Selector Chart