The Horse Hoof and Equine Foot Care

Horse Hoof & Foot Care - hdr

Covering environmental effects on the horse hoof, as well as nutrition, trimming, shoeing and how to spot lameness.

Proper care of your horse’s hoof and foot can have profound effects on its overall soundness.

Proper hoof care provided by you, the horse owner, can reduce costs and your farrier and vet can advise you and help you to establish a hoof and foot care program that will keep your horse healthy and serviceable.

The hoof is considered correctly shaped, trimmed and shod, when the angle is correct.

A Correctly Shaped Horse Hoof

Correct hoof shape

The horse hoof image, on the right, shows a correctly trimmed and shaped hoof, with the hoof surface at the correct angle.

Today, a representative range of hoof angles is from 53 to 58 degrees for the fronts and 55 to 60 degrees for the hinds. However, every horse has its own ideal hoof angle.

  • The hoof angle is considered correct when the hoof and pastern are in alignment, that is, when the front surface of the hoof is parallel to an imaginary line passing through the center of the pastern.
  • A low hoof angle indicates a Long Toe/Low Heel hoof (LT/LH) and can cause excess tendon stress, heel soreness, cracks, bowed tendons, contracted heels, navicular syndrome, and under-run heels.
  • Under-run heels refer to heels that have an angle lower than the toe of the hoof by 5 degrees or more. Under-run heels slope under the hoof and in severe cases can appear to approach the horizontal.

A barefoot horse can actually have a better chance of maintaining hoof balance if allowed to move freely over dry ground and the horse’s hooves are allowed to wear naturally.

When a shod foot is in perfect balance, the angle will usually get lower as weeks pass because the horses toe grows faster than the heels and the horseshoe prevents the toe from wearing away.

This is one reason you should have your horses feet trimmed and balanced on a regular basis.

Your horses front and hind feet are a different shape.

Study the two images below to see just how much your horses front and hind feet differ in shape. Both pairs of feet are constructed to do separate jobs and should be treated differently to ensure they fulfill their correct functions.

Horse Hoof Hind

Hind Foot

  • 1. Bulbs
  • 2. Central Sulcus of Frog
  • 3. Angle of Wall
  • 4. Bars
  • 5. Collateral Sulcus
  • 6. White Line

Horse Hoof Fore

Fore Foot

  • 7. Apex of Frog
  • 8. Wall
  • 9. Sole
  • 10. Toe
  • 11. Quarter
  • 12. Heel

It is thoroughly recommended that you check your horses feet at least twice daily, and definitely before and after riding.

Horse Care Tip … Moisturise your horses hooves by soaking each foot in water for up to fifteen minutes. Water is the only thing that will properly moisturise your horses hooves.

Pick up your horses feet, and using a good hoof pick remove any mud and stones. Always work from the heel to the toe. Be careful not to dig the hoof pick into the frog (2 above).

Sharp stones, are uncomfortable for your horse and can cause severe bruising and lameness.

Stray objects such as nails and glass, may cause puncture wounds, which in turn can cause major infections and lameness.

If wet mud, soiled bedding or droppings are left in the hoof for a long time, moist, dirty conditions may cause a fungal infection, called thrush.

Hoof Care – horse hoof condition reflects their environment

Be aware that ;

  • Horses that spend a lot of time in wet bedding or a muddy paddock, will develop soft hoof walls.
  • Horses who are in a pasture or stall in good dry bedding or sand, will have hard hoof walls
  • Too dry and your horse will have brittle, cracked hooves.
  • Dirty wet or moist bedding can produce thrush and cause other hoof problems.

So, try to make sure your horse is in a clean, dry environment; and regularly apply hoof dressing or hoof oil to counter the effects of dry living conditions.

Hoof Trimming –

Trimming is carried out to remove excess hoof wall and this is removed to allow the horse a natural way of going.

  • Sometimes trimming may be done in a specialised fashion to alter the way of going.
  • Trimming may be done to change the appearance of the horse’s feet and legs.
  • Trimming should leave the foot’s ground surface on a single flat plane at right angles to its bone support column and preserve natural angulation of the hoof/pastern/shoulder axis.
  • Removal of too much hoof wall can cause soreness or lameness in your horse.
  • Removal of too little wall may cause angle and balance problems.
  • Trimming is done at 4 to 6 week intervals but can be extended depending on your horses hoof growth.

Food and Nutrition –

Your horses overall health is directly reflected in the condition of his feet and hooves.

  • Many health problems seen first in the feet.
  • Many feed supplements including biotin, help produce strong healthy feet.
  • Don’t overuse hoof dressings or hoof oil as it can soften the hoof wall
  • Use hoof oils sparingly as some hoof oils can build up and prevent the hoof from breathing.

Always check the coronet band on each hoof for signs that old oil deposits aren’t building up

Look for early warning signs as your horses feet are growing.

Just as with your own finger nails, problem signs can be picked up in the new hoof growth.

Shoeing Your Horses’ Feet … Barefoot or Not?

To shoe or not to shoe is becoming a major consideration and a growing body of horse owners are deciding that their horse will fair better without shoes and the hammering of nails through hoof walls.

Whatever your particular preference you should only make a decision based on sound advice from a fully qualified farrier.

  • Shoeing or trimming should only be carried out by a qualified and registered farrier.
  • Horses need to be shod when the wear and tear on the hoof exceeds the hoofs natural growth
  • Shoeing protects the horse’s feet.
  • Shoeing generally enhances performance.
  • It’s usually easier to run with shoes on than in bare feet.

Farriers know more about the horse hoof and horse feet than any other qualified or unqualified individual and in the best interests of your horses’ health and wellbeing, make sure you listen to a qualified farriers advice.