Soggy Dogs, Dry Dogs: Managing moisture in hooves

HN Contributor Laura Cox shares practical advice for curing two common foot complaints.

Does your horse suffer from soggy, waterlogged hooves? Or maybe they are suffering from dry, brittle hooves that look like the slightest touch will turn them into sand?

Well, it’s your lucky day because I have lived in both muddy and dry conditions and have spent all of my money trying to find the solution just for you. OK, maybe I didn’t spend ALL of my money, but I was on the verge of overspending on conditioners, oils, you know, all that stuff we just have to have because it will make our horses’ hooves golden? HA! I wish! Unfortunately, I had no idea that some of what I was doing was actually contributing to the hoof problem (and the deficit in my bank account).

To prevent you all from ending up in Brokeville with me, I am going to pass along some helpful tips to balance the moisture levels in your ponies’ feet. If you are unsure if your horse has one or the other, go to the person who knows hooves best: your farrier. For the rest of you, check out these tips from the farriers I have met living in both the sandy southeast and boggy New England.

For dry, brittle hooves:

Dry sandy areas can suck the moisture right out of our equine’s hooves, leaving them at risk for chipping, cracking, and possibly debilitating lameness as a result. Finding a good conditioner and applying daily to the outer hoof wall and along the frog is always a good option. Or take the farrier’s tip for naturally adding moisture back into your horses’ hooves: create a moist area around your horses drinking source. This can be done by allowing your horse’s trough to overflow when filling it and keeping it in a shady area to prevent rapid evaporation of the moisture on the ground, allowing for hoof moisturizing each time they visit the bar water trough.

For overly saturated hooves (this one can be a little more tricky):

In areas that tend to get a lot of rain or snow melt, mud tends to stick around for long periods, especially in the spring. When I moved to Connecticut from South Georgia, I found out pretty quickly that the conditioner I was using was no longer needed (so much for that 5 lb. container of Hooflex). Instead, my farrier recommended finding a hoof hardener to assist in strengthening my poor white hoofed quarter horse was suddenly retaining every drop of moisture. Phew! I thought he was going to tell me I needed to take a hairdryer to them. My alternative treatment: Go get a load of sand from the south and drop it in your horses’ paddock. If it works in the south, why not make it work in the north? Kidding!

Seriously, though, it was implied, actually he was quite blunt about it, that we horse people try too hard to “fix” problems that are nonexistent. No, I wouldn’t do that! OK maybe I do, but his point was that sometimes less is more. His alternative and free solution is to do nothing. Most of the time the ground is only be boggy for a few days following a monsoon an afternoon thundershower. In our farm’s case, most of the horses were stalled at night which provided enough dry time for their hooves. The ones who lived outside were provided a dry shelter where all meals and hay were provided. So, if you have access to stalls during the wet seasons, provide your best friend with several hours of dry time. If not, build them a shelter in a dry area of their pasture, even if it is a few poles and some tarp (hey, whatever works, right?). And don’t forget to clean their hooves on a daily basis to prevent trapping moisture in the crevices between the sole and frogs.

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