The Basics of Hoof Care

What you need to know about keeping your horses feet healthy

It’s an old saying, but still true: “No foot, no horse.” 

As a horse owner, it’s important for you to understand why that’s true, as well as how you and your farrier figure into keeping that hoof healthy. Here are some basic concepts about your horse’s hoof-care needs.

The hoof is always growing. Like human fingernails, the hoof continually grows to compensate for normal wear and tear. Wild horses’ feet grow and wear out at about the same rate, but the confined domestic horse’s feet may grow too long if its not ridden much — and hoofs may split, chip or break.

At the other extreme, hooves may wear too fast on a horse that’s ridden a lot. Proper trimming and shoeing can keep feet healthy and at proper length.

The hoof wall protects the inner foot. Outer hoof horn protects sensitive living tissues inside the foot and continually grows down from the coronary band. The hoof wall is made up of tiny hollow tubes running from coronary band to ground surface. They hold moisture to keep the hoof pliable and elastic so it can compress and expand without splitting. On the inner surface of the hoof wall, these columns of tissue interface with the sensitive portion of the foot that contains blood and nerves.

The sole also has a role in protection. The sole protects the ground surface of the foot. The V-shaped frog that bisects the sole acts as a spongy cushion to help absorb concussion. The hoof…

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Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas is a freelance writer based in Salmon, Idaho. She has been writing books and articles for nearly 50 years.

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