Should I use hoof
dressing, and if so, what kind and how often?
evolved on semi-arid plains, and healthy hooves are designed to be dry and hard.
Horses in confinement must have an environment that allows the hoof to be
dry, hard, and healthy. Hoof dressing is generally not necessary for healthy
hooves and too much hoof dressing can soften and weaken hooves.
Most of the moisture in the hoof comes from the blood supply, and exercise encourages
blood flow. If your horse is getting adequate exercise and the footing of
his stall, pen or pasture is well-drained, the moisture balance between the inner
and outer layers of his hooves probably remains at a relatively constant, healthy
level. However, if your horse stands inactive for long periods of time,
such as in a stall, sufficient moisture may not be delivered and his hoof walls
may tend to dry out and contract. On the other hand, if your horse stands
in mud or water, has frequent baths, or receives excessive hoof dressing applications
the hooves can absorb too much moisture. When this happens the hooves
can weaken and spread and the layers of the hoof wall can separate into a fibrous
pulpy mess. Also, hooves can develop cracks as they dry out after being
their claims, hoof products applied externally cannot "heal" a cracked
hoof. Like a damaged fingernail, the hoof must be replaced by new horn as
is grows down from the coronary band. Many farriers recommend not to apply
any greases or oils in an attempt to soften the hoof. About the only time
hoof dressing is warranted is when the bulbs of the heels have become so dry that
they are beginning to crack. In order to restore their pliability, rub a
product containing animal fat (such as lanolin or fish oil) or pine tar into the
heels daily until the desired result has been achieved. It is thought that
petroleum-bases products may emulsify the hoof's natural oils and actually remove
moisture from the hoof.
The hoof has two natural protective coverings, the periople and the stratum tectorium,
which retard moisture movement from either direction - from the outside environment
into the hoof and from the inner layers of the hoof to the outside. Should
the thin layer of stratum tectorium be rasped away during trimming or shoeing,
application of a hoof sealer is recommended.
Whereas hoof dressings are in the form of pastes or creams, hoof sealers are thin
liquids that soak into the hoof wall and then dry. If your horse is in a
wet muddy environment, regular application of a hoof sealer can seal out excess
moisture. In a dry environment a hoof sealer can keep hooves supple by preventing
internal moisture from evaporating.