It’s easy for farriers to think of a hoof as a sponge that easily soaks up water from the environment. But scientific studies find no difference in relative hydration between hooves from wet or dry environments. What’s actually going on in hoof hydration is far more complicated than this photo-illustration suggests.
There are a few things farriers are pretty sure about regarding moisture in the foot. They come down to:
Farriers in show barns rail against horses that are bathed too often, while shoers in dry, arid areas sometimes ask owners to let water troughs overflow a bit so horses will have to stand in water or mud while drinking, giving their feet a chance to get some moisture. Some hoof coatings are touted for holding in moisture, while others keep it out.
But when scientific tests are used, the results aren’t clear-cut — and they don’t seem to support these commonly held beliefs. Two presenters at the 2013 International Hoof-Care Summit separately noted that the amount of moisture in a hoof doesn’t seem to vary much — no matter what environment the horse lives in.
Australian hoof researcher Brian Hampson told the Summit audience in Cincinnati, Ohio, that tests on the hooves of brumbies — the feral horses of Australia…