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Identify what you’re trying to address before you choose your dressing
There are many hoof-care products available today meant to be applied topically as dressings, coatings, sealants and hardeners. Some are formulated to promote faster hoof growth. Some are used to soften dry, brittle feet to make them more flexible and less prone to cracking while others are intended for hardening to keep feet from becoming too soft in wet conditions. Some aim to do both — by keeping the natural moisture in and excess moisture out.
The hoof wall is made of connective tissue — similar to skin, but much harder, more like human fingernails. Like fingernails and skin, hoof horn (which is made up of tiny hollow fibers) must contain a certain amount of moisture to remain resilient and pliable.
Too much moisture and the horse’s feet become soft and wear away quickly or won’t hold nails. Too little moisture and they become brittle — chipping and cracking. Years ago horsemen used grease or wool fat (lanolin is still the active ingredient in some hoof ointments) to keep feet from getting too dry and as a moisture-repelling barrier to keep them from getting soft. In recent years hoof hardeners and sealants have become popular, utilizing modern technology and materials.
You can’t add moisture to a hoof with a topical dressing since hoof moisture comes from within — from a healthy blood supply — but a good hoof coating can help reduce moisture loss by holding…