4 Ways to Keep Your Horse’s Hooves Healthy

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a woman showing a demo on how to care for horse hooves properly

Learning how to care for horse hooves is one of the most important skills for every owner.

“No foot, no horse,” is a common saying that holds a lot of truth!

So, with that in mind, below we will go all of the basics that you need to know.

Let’s jump right in!

Basic Facts About Horses Hooves

Before we can really dig into how to care for horse hooves, it helps to understand the anatomy.

The hoof may look simple from the outside, but it is a complex structure. Let’s break it down, from the outside in.

Hoof wall

The visible area of the foot is the hoof wall. A healthy hoof will not show cracks.

At the top of the hoof wall where it meats the hairline of the leg is the coronary band. It is from here that that hoof grows and is supplied with nutrition.

The hoof wall is made from keratin, similar to human fingernails, but harder. It does not have a blood supply and continually grows.


Behind the hoof wall is the laminae. The laminae attach to the coffin bone, one of the three bones of the hoof. It also supports much of the horse’s weight.

Sole & frog

When you lift up the hoof, you will see the sole and the frog. The frog is a triangular-shaped area.

It helps with circulation, traction, and acts as a cushion. The frog also contains nerves that help the horse feel where its feet are.

Coffin Bone

The three bones contained within the hoof, along with ligaments and tendons, are the coffin bone, the navicular bone, and the short pastern bone.

Check out the video below for a visual demonstration of the above:


Now that we understand horse hoof anatomy, let’s talk care tips.

#1 Trimming A Horse’s Hooves

Because the hoof of the horse continually grows, it needs regular trimming.

This is not a job for anyone, and should only be done by a qualified farrier.

Using someone unqualified, or attempting it yourself can cause serious problems for your horse.

Get a horse’s hooves trimmed every six to eight weeks during spring, summer and fall.

As the hoof grows slower in the winter, you might get away with twelve-week gaps during this period.

When a farrier trims the hoof, he will balance it. This includes ensuring the following:

  • Create the correct break over for the toe, ensuring it is not too long and shaped to suit the horse
  • Set the correct, straight pastern, hoof angle
  • Ensure the heal is correctly supporting the horse
  • Ensure the foot is evenly balanced, so the horse lands evenly on all areas of the hoof

#2 Shoeing The Horse

Many horses in work require shoes to help protect and support the hoof. Certain problems of the hoof require special shoeings, such as navicular and laminitis.

If you put shoes on a horse, only use a qualified farrier. He will need to re-shoe your horse every six to eight weeks. Read our guide on hoof boots for navicular.

Some people do not heavily work their horses, so it is not necessary to keep the horse in shoes all the time.

An alternative is the occasional use of hoof boots for barefoot horses. These are useful for trail riding as doing this activity barefoot can make the horse’s feet sore.

#3 Caring For The Hoof With Nutrition

Ensuring your horse gets a balanced diet with the minerals and vitamins it needs helps keep the hoof healthy.

It also means feeding your horse a diet of mostly forage. It is possible to repair poor-quality hooves with proven supplements.

Since the hoof grows from the coronary band, the repair of damage can take several months.

If you want to improve your horse’s hooves, feed a hoof supplement containing the following:

  • Biotin
  • Zinc
  • Methionine
  • Iodine

You will find several different hoof supplements, that you simply have to add to the horse’s feed. One of the best options is Farrier’s Formula.

#4 Everyday Hoofcare

One thing a horse owner can do to keep their horse’s feet healthy is clean them.

Each day you need to pick the horse’s feet. This is done with a hoof pick, easily found at any tack shop.

To clean a horse’s feet, lift the foot and use the hoof pick in a downwards motion, along the grooves of the frog.

This will remove dirt, muck, and stones. All of which can cause hoof issues.

You can also regularly apply hoof dressings or hoof oil. This doesn’t necessarily need to be done on a daily basis.

For dry, brittle hooves, a conditioning cream is the best option.

Using a hoof dressing is best done in conjunction with a hoof supplement if you want to repair poor hooves.

If you are unsure of the best hoof dressing, ask your farrier for a recommendation. One of our farrier’s favorite is Kevin Bacon’s Hoof Dressing.

2 Common Hoof Problems

brushing horse's hooves in the right way

Several hoof problems commonly affect the horse.

Some of these you can treat yourself.

Others you can spot but need to seek the appropriate treatment from a vet or farrier.

#1 Thrush

Thrush is a proliferation of fungi and bacteria that affects the frog of the hoof. It is easily spotted by its bad smell and black gooey consistency.

Thrush destroys the frog and can lead to lameness. To prevent it, keep your horse’s environment clean and dry.

Clean the areas where your horse spends most of his time daily.

Make sure stables are cleaned of manure and urine at least once per day, and dry bedding is provided.

Several thrush treatments are available to buy at your local tack shop, such as the popular Kopertox.

Another solution is creating a poultice of sugardine, which is a mixture of white sugar and iodine.

You pack this into the hoof and bandage the hoof. Treatment with any type of thrush product will take many applications to clear it up.

#2 Hoof Abscess

An abscess is an infection inside the hoof. They are caused by trauma or something entering the hoof, such as a grain of sand.

Hoof abscesses cause extreme pain to the hoof, and it will show up with a sudden, extreme lameness. The hoof will feel hot to the touch.

To treat the abscess the first goal is to remove the offending foreign object.

This is done by a farrier or vet, who will locate it and if possible open the area of the hoof, so it can drain.

Treatment also includes soaking the foot in Epsom salts, poultices, and bandaging. 

Bonus Hoof Care Tips and Summary

a vet checking the brown horse's hooves
  • Get your horses hooves trimmed or shod regularly
  • Avoid turning your horse out in poor ground conditions
  • Don’t attempt to trim or shoe your horse yourself
  • Only use a fully qualified farrier with a good reputation
  • Even young horses need regular hoof care and farrier visits
  • Keep bedding dry and clean


  • “Caring for Your Horse’s Hooves.” n.d. Extension.umn.edu. https://extension.umn.edu/horse-health/caring-your-horses-hooves.
  • “Feeding the Foot: Nutrition of Equine Hoof Health.” 2020. The Horse. August 22, 2020. https://thehorse.com/191783/feeding-the-foot-nutrition-of-equine-hoof-health/.
  • “Hoof Anatomy – a Beginner’s Guide.” n.d. The Equine Podiatry Association. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://www.epauk.org/about-equine-podiatry/articles/hoof-anatomy-a-beginners-guide/?doing_wp_cron=1621431888.1842260360717773437500.
  • Pennanen, Sherri. 2016. “Hoof Dressing.” Equine Wellness Magazine. March 15, 2016. https://equinewellnessmagazine.com/hoof-dressing/.
  • “Preventing and Treating Thrush in Horses.” n.d. Horses. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/thrush_in_horses#:~:text=Thrush%20is%20the%20destruction%20of.
a lady brushing a horse hooves to keep it healthy

How do you care for your horse’s hooves? Please share with us below!

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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