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Ask the Farrier: Important factors for hoof health

Photo by: April Raine

Several riders at my barn use hoof supplements for their horses, while others swear by a particular farrier. When it comes to healthy hooves, what factor plays the biggest role? — BM from Washington D.C.

As a farrier, I’d love to claim that it’s all about me, but the truth is that healthy hooves result from overall good horsemanship and attendance to a complex web of concerns, including hoof care, nutrition, age, climate, environment, activity, and genetics. Since elements like age and genetics are beyond our control, we have to focus our caretaking on the areas we can realistically influence. The topics you mention—hoof care and supplementation—are our best opportunities to make a positive impact on hoof growth. Basically, we need a knowledgeable professional to maintain the external hoof, and we need a solid nutritional program to ensure that new growth is as healthy as possible.

Of course, I realize that’s easier said than done. Neither farriers nor supplements are created equally, and given all the choices available, choosing a farrier or a supplement can be daunting. When selecting a hoof care provider, you should look for exactly what you mention in your question, a “particular” farrier. Look for someone who takes pride in his/her work, who has experience and a foundation in the basics, and spends the time and effort to pursue continuing education.

When selecting a hoof supplement, you should look to products and manufacturers that attend to details in a similar, informed manner. While, in an ideal world, a complete and balanced diet should provide adequate nutrients to support healthy hooves, those other concerns (age, climate, activity, etc.) often result in a horse needing supplementation, and shopping with SmartPak will give you the peace of mind that you’re choosing from the best available options. Research has shown that a daily serving of 10–30 mg of biotin improves the growth rate and quality of hoof wall. A good hoof supplement should also provide some of the minerals and amino acids required for the production of healthy horn, such as zinc, copper, methionine, and lysine.

Ultimately, the factor that plays the biggest role in your horse’s hoof health is you. Fortunately, you’re asking the right questions to ensure you’re doing right by your horse. He’s lucky to have you!

— Danvers Child, CJF

Hungry for more tips on healthy hooves?

Listen to “Healthy Hooves 360°,” a recent webinar featuring Danvers and our own Dr. Lydia Gray.

Danvers Child CJF

A lifelong horseman and practicing farrier since 1972, Danvers specializes in shoeing sport and performance horses. He served as a supervisor for the Official Farriers at the Alltech FEI 2010 World Equestrian Games, and he also serves as an Official Farrier for the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event.

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18 comments on “Ask the Farrier: Important factors for hoof health
  1. Sylvia Travelstead says:

    Should you keep your horses on Biotin all the time?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Sylvia, thank you for your question! If you have determined that your horse would be a good candidate for a hoof supplement, it will be important that your horse receive the supplement daily to see the results you’re looking for. The biotin research that Danvers describes showed a benefit to the hoof wall when the biotin was fed on a daily basis. For that reason, SmartPaks are a fantastic option because they will ship to you automatically every month ensuring that you never run out! Please let us know if you have any additional questions!

  2. Barbara says:

    Have a ? My paint mare has healthy hooves. She has a thick wall also, but one frog will not keep growth. I have been using iodine 2 times a week, and cleaning her hoof every day. What can I do its not thrush, and my farrier is the one that suggested iodine. I had used coppertox in the past! Can u help….

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Barbara, thank you for your question! It is excellent that you are working with your farrier to address your mare’s hoof issues, and we would also encourage you to get your veterinarian in on the conversation. Where it seems like you haven’t yet seen the results you’re looking for, having both your farrier and your veterinarian on board to develop a plan for managing her feet should give you the best chance of success! SmartPak does offer a wide array of topical products that can sometimes be appropriate, so we would suggest consulting with both these professionals to find out if any of them might be a good choice for your mare.

      Hoof Health Products:

  3. Shelby says:

    As we all know, no hoof, no horse! When purchasing a new horse, are there any signs a non-expert can find to see if the horse will come with potential lameness issues?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Shelby, thank you for your question! When it comes to evaluating a potential new horse, your best option is to work with a veterinarian you trust to perform a purchase exam on the horse you’re considering. During a purchase exam, the veterinarian should be able to give you some insight into the horse’s overall health and how the horse might hold up to the type and level of work you have in mind. Purchase exams can be quite simple or quite detailed, and are an incredibly valuable tool when trying to decide if a potential horse will be a good fit for you and the future you have planned. We would also encourage you to read our blog entry all about purchase exams!

      Purchase Exams for Horses:

  4. Dana says:

    I have a Paint mare that i have been struggling to get rid of her white line through this winter. What products do you feel work the best to get rid of white line? Do you feel that diet can make horses more likely to get white line. Some people suggest a low sugar, low starch diet for horses that get white line. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Dana, thanks for your question! I’m so sorry to hear that your mare is struggling with white line disease. First, I want to direct you to two helpful resources for dealing with white line disease – the first is from our own Dr. Gray in our Ask the Vet archives: and the second is an in-depth article on managing white line disease, by Dr. Steve O’Grady:
      As for topical products, you should absolutely work with your veterinarian, and possibly also your farrier, before adding anything into your mare’s treatment regime. Two customer favorites which you may want to discuss with your vet and farrier are Banixx Wound & Hoof Care ( and Life Data Hoof Disinfectant (, both of which have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
      With regards to diet, you should again check first with your vet and farrier before making any changes. One option that you may want to consider is feeding a supplement that provides high levels of the key nutritional building blocks for healthy hooves. SmartHoof Ultra ( provides aggressive nutritional support for weak hooves, and has received 4.6 out of 5-stars from the 180+ riders who have reviewed it.
      Good luck! – SmartPaker Sarah

  5. Nadia says:

    hello! I have a paint (with 4 white hoofs) who has extremely sensitive feet on asphalt and rocky ground. he will tip-toe. i bought my horse a few weeks ago and had my farrier come out to look at him as he came up lame over the weekend. the farrier found 2 bruises one on the front left between the hoof wall and up to the white line, the other is half way up the hoof wall on his back right. Is there anything i can give him to make his hoofs stronger? i like to trail ride but not if my horse will keep bruising and i have to stay off it for a week or two. thank you.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Nadia, we’re sorry to hear about your horse’s hoof issues! It’s excellent to hear that you’re working with your farrier to help address your horse’s bruising and soreness. It would also be a good idea to loop your veterinarian into the discussion. I would encourage you to have a conversation with your farrier and veterinarian about the quality of your horse’s hoof wall to determine if a biotin-based hoof supplement like SmartHoof Ultra might be beneficial for promoting strong, healthy feet. If your horse is continuing to develop bruising and is uncomfortable during trail rides on rugged terrain, take a look at protective boots such as the Cavallo Simple Boots. They could be a great way to protect your horse’s feet so you can enjoy the trail! – SmartPaker Casey

      SmartHoof Ultra Pellets:
      Cavallo Simple Boots:

  6. Cheryl says:

    I have a 15 year old mare that is what I call a stall walker or pasture pacer…she continuously walks either out of being bored or is stressed from being the only horse. Problem is, she does not pick her back feet up high enough and rubs the toes off flat 🙁 I am so afraid she is going to get them short enough to cause problems..what should I do?? I asked my farrier and he doesn’t seem too concerned, should I be?? Should I put shoes on her. Please help.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Cheryl, it’s good to hear that you are so passionate about protecting your horse’s health. If possible, we recommend seeking out a companion for your mare, since being alone can be very stressful on horses. If another horse isn’t an option, goats, donkeys, and other animals are also great company! You may also want to consider providing your mare with a small hole haynet to help keep her occupied and happier. In regards to her hoof wear, that is something that is best evaluated by a farrier in person. You may want to seek out a second opinion from another trusted professional such as your veterinarian. Best of luck! – SmartPaker Kerri

  7. Liz says:

    Should I be putting my horse on a hoof supplement? She wears front shoes in the summer and this summer has had two hoof abscesses in her back feet about a month from each other, she gets sore without shoes due to the ground being hard and rocky. Before I had shoes on her at one point she was going 12 weeks before the farrier could see her and even then he just rasped and shaped up her feet(this is when I decided to put shoes on her this was a year or so ago) The first year I had her she was lame for a few days due to the hard dry ground and an abscess brewing which I was able to ride her with after she wasn’t lame (3 days after lameness showed up). She doesn’t get much new hoof growth between visits in the summer she goes 6 weeks and in the winter she goes 8-10 weeks, but the last visit she was at 8 weeks (to remove shoes before the ground froze)she also has small feet (Doc Bar bred) but not to the point where it makes her unable to be ridden etc. and didn’t have much to trim off. She is currently on MSM just for maintenance.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Liz, thanks for your question. When it comes to hoof abscesses, we definitely recommend consulting with both your veterinarian and your farrier for the best treatment and management protocols for you horse’s individual situation. Feeding a hoof supplement to support healthy hoof growth may certainly be a good idea, as research has shown that supplementing with biotin can improve both hoof growth rate and hardness. Consider SmartHoof Ultra (, which contains 30 mg of biotin as well as the minerals and amino acids needed for healthy hoof growth and quality. Please keep in mind that you’ll need to stick with any hoof supplement for at least 3-6 months before expecting the initial results, as the typical hoof only grows about 1/4 inch per month, and your horse seems to be a “slow grower.” It could take up to a year for your horse’s hooves to fully grow out, and she may need the on-going nutritional support a hoof supplement provides, even after that. Check out this blog: to learn more about what to expect when feeding a hoof supplement and best of luck with your mare! – SmartPaker Casey

  8. Roxanna englert says:

    I have a 8 yr. old reg.A.Q.H.A. perlino mare. I have had her since she was 6wks. Old.
    She has always had a issue with her feet. her 1st. Farrier worked on her until she was 5. He told me she had horrible feet, basically because od her off white color. her feet are soft and have always had a superficial crack down the center of both frt. feet. During the riding season I keep her front shoes on her. every time he trimmed her she was sore only on the fronts. I finally switched farriers. She is not sore now at each trimming. she walks out normal. this farrier suggested a supplement. Could you please give me some suggestions on what should be feed. thank you

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Roxanna, thanks for asking! It’s excellent that you’re working so
      closely with your farrier to address your mare’s hoof quality issues.
      Based on what you’ve described, I would take a look at a supplement
      called SmartHoof Ultra. It contains key ingredients such as biotin,
      amino acids and minerals to support healthy hoof wall. It also contains
      the specialized ingredients collagen and silica which are particularly
      beneficial for supporting resilient connective tissue, like hoof wall.
      This supplement also comes in a pellet that even picky horses love! –
      SmartPaker Casey

  9. Jennifer says:

    We were told by our farrier that our horse has a thin hoof wall. Can you suggest a supplement to improve the hoof wall? Thank you

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Jennifer, it’s great that you’re working closely with your farrier to address your horse’s hoof needs. If you and your farrier are on the hunt for a supplement to support your horse, there are a couple of ingredients you’ll want to look for. The first is biotin, and research has shown that 10-30mg daily may help support quality hoof wall growth. Also look for a supplement that contains amino acids like lysine, methionine and threonine, as well as minerals such as copper and zinc. – SmartPaker Casey

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