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Brittle hooves in horses

Posted on 14 June 2014 by Kim

article about causes and treatment of brittle hooves in horses

When the ground gets hard and dry in summer, horse owners start to scrutinize their horse’s feet.  They assume that brittle, cracked and chipped hooves are the result of prolonged, hot, dry weather but environment is just one aspect that plays a part in your horse’s feet.  Often nutrition and genetics are overlooked.  More often than not the condition of hooves is generally a reflection of his overall health. 


Whilst some horses just inherit bad feet from their relatives, the importance of nutrition is frequently underestimated.  If your horse is lacking protein or vitamins and minerals or has an unbalanced diet, his feet can really be affected. Always ensure your horse is being fed a proper, balanced diet. If your horse is just getting grass and/or hay, he may be missing some key nutrients. Adding a supplement may be the answer for your horse to healthier hooves. Excellent hoof supplements on the market.  When selecting a supplement, look for ingredients like biotin, selenium, Omega fatty acids, lysine, vitamin B, zinc, manganese, threonine and iodine.

First and Foremost  

The first and probably most important thing you'll need to repair your horse's hooves is a well-qualified, competent farrier. Farriers with limited ability should not work on horses with problems as a relatively small problem can quickly turn it into a larger one that will take more time, effort and money to repair. If you are sure you have a qualified farrier, have him and your vet help you make a plan to repair your horse's dry, brittle hooves.

Dress with Care

When your horse’s hoof is dry, brittle, chipped or cracked, it sure sounds like a good idea to “treat” it by painting something on. Plus, these products claim that they moisturise and even help heal/repair damaged hooves.  However applying products such as these can cause problems rather than solve them.  Some products such as oil, make the hooves reject moisture, which causes them to dry out. Walking around in wet grass every now and then is very good for the hooves of your horse. The hooves become elastic and shine without oil. During a dry period it even helps to hose the hooves to hydrate them. 

Unfortunately, there’s really no replacement for the natural protective barrier in a hoof. Excessive use of dressings and oils can over soften an already damaged foot. And horses with deep cracks can have sensitive tissues exposed to potentially irritating ingredients.

Maintain Movement

A lot of problems with hooves stem from bad care and/or insufficient movement. Movement is extremely important for the development of healthy feet, including the hooves and joints in the foot. Movement stimulates the blood flow and that is essential for the transport of nutrients to keep the hooves healthy, elastic and in top condition.  So even when it’s warm and sunny, you still need to exercise your horse, early mornings or later in the evening when it is cooler.

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Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.

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