Your farrier has done an excellent job of fortifying your horse's weak, shelly hooves, but what happens to them between farrier visits can go a long way toward preserving their health. To help strengthen your horse's hooves, try incorporating the following tips into your daily management:
- Keep your horse's hooves as dry as possible. Moisture weakens hoof walls and provides an ideal environment for bacterial invasions. Just as destructive as excess moisture, however, are extreme fluctuations between wet and dry conditions, which cause the hoof to expand and contract with each moisture change. Horses on summer pasture go through the wet-dry cycle daily, with morning dew giving way to ground-baking dryness. Frequent baths and postexercise hosings also contribute to this problem, so stick to careful spongings that keep hooves relatively dry.
- Stand your horse on solid ground. A tenderfooted horse may look ouchy on harder footing, but the firm ground helps toughen feet. An ideal flooring for stabled horses is made up of dense stall mats covered by a thin layer of dry bedding.
- Make sure your horse gets enough exercise. Simply walking around a pasture stimulates hoof circulation and growth. Even if your mount's feet look fragile, resist the urge to restrict activity.
- Apply hoof tougheners. Commercial bonding agents formulated to harden hooves are available through tack stores. Ask your farrier which ones would be most suitable for your horse. Avoid preparations that contain oils because they can contribute to softening of the wall.