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Hoofing It


“Can you share any of your hoof care tips?” – Angela Z. from Salt Lake City, UT

I believe the saying is…”no hoof, no horse.” If the feet are not taken care of, the repercussions can be costly in terms of both money and time. That being said, every horse is a complete individual and external factors such as season, moisture, weather, length of turnout, and type of work all come into play.

Just as with legs, you should know what normal is for your horse’s feet. When they come in from the paddock feel their feet to see how warm they are, you should also know how to find the digital pulse. How strong this pulse is can be a good sign if your horse is abscessing or a puncture has occurred. Should both front feet be excessively warm and the pulse high, call your vet, these are the initial signs of a horse foundering. If you horse is in a stall, check their feet prior to turn out or exercise.

Feet should be picked out on a regular basis, both before and after turnout and/or exercise. Things to look for include signs of thrush, a puncture wound, any cracks or abscesses developing, and risen clinches.

Because horses are individuals, you may or may not need to put him on a hoof supplement. Should your horse have weak feet, prone to cracking it might be helpful.


What do you apply to the feet?? And how often??? I hate to sound repetitive, but once again this all depends on the horse and his lifestyle!! Whilst at Phillip’s, my biggest problem would be horses that would go from the PA winters to the sandy loam of Aiken and then back to dry hard ground of PA again!! The constant change in footing would be hard on horses that had weak feet. The cycle of alternate soaking and drying weakens the hoof wall due to the constant expanding and contracting of the hoof wall (learn more). I like to apply a hoof sealant to the bottom two thirds of the hoof. This can be done before nighttime turnout and bathing.

If you need to take a stronger approach, you may need to reduce nighttime turnout so that your horses are not standing in dewy grass for a long period of time. Another thing to consider is if your horses are left out all day in the summer, they’ll spend much off the day trying to stomp flies off, and some even pace. This is also an area of concern because of the concussion this causes can attribute to loosening nail holes, cracking feet and eventually loss of shoes. Sometimes it helps to shorten the shoeing cycle in the summer by a week. As with any changes to your horse’s shoeing needs, this should be discussed with your farrier.

Emma Ford

Emma Ford is one of the most respected grooms in US Eventing. Born and raised in the UK, Emma came to the US in 1998 to groom for top eventer Adrienne Iorio. After seven years with Adrienne, Emma moved to True Prospect Farm to work with five-time Olympian and 13-time USEA Leading Rider of the Year, Phillip Dutton. During her tenure with Phillip, Emma cared for many famous equine athletes including Connaught, TruLuck, Woodburn, and Mystery Whisper. She’s groomed at Burghley, Blenheim and Boekelo, cared for horses at the 2006 and 2010 World Championships, 2007 Pan Am Games, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and groomed at Rolex Kentucky and Fair Hill International every year since 2001. And now she’s here to help you! Submit your grooming questions and Emma just may be able to teach you a few of her tricks!

Posted in Ask The Groom

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3 comments on “Hoofing It
  1. Cody says:

    My farrier told me that my horse has some seperation in his front hoof and chipped his toe off in the quick, I was wondering if there was anything I could do to help the healing process.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Cody,
      I’m assuming that by saying he’s chipped his toe “into the quick,” you’re indicating that he’s broken the hoof wall away to the point that he’s tender. If that’s the case, I would recommend that you protect his feet (shoes or boots) and encourage growth (activity/exercise and nutrition/supplements). You can also use topicals designed to toughen the sole. Venice Turpentine and Magic Cushion will help in the short term, but you should also consider a long-term maintenance program with something like Keratex Hoof Hardener.
      While getting him through this episode is your primary goal, it’s important that you talk with your professional farrier and veterinarian to determine the cause of the separation that started this problem. Hoof wall separation can be caused by a number of issues, ranging from maintenance to disease, and—while it seems minor in and of itself—it can create many problems.
      – Danvers Child, CJF

  2. Emma Emma says:

    Hi Cody, thank you for the question. I am assuming by ‘ chipped the toe off at the quick’ you mean your farrier as cut away a piece of hoof wall to mechanically unload the pressure from the separated wall. In my experience this is the typical way of dealing with the problem. In truth I feel this has to be an ongoing conversation with your farrier. In the same situation I have always just kept up with my regular hoof care, trying to make sure the moisture balance is good. With the right attention from your farrier, the wall separation should not cause you any problems.

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