Best Ways for Dealing with Dry, Extremely Brittle Hooves

With hot weather on the way, it’s a good time to take another look at how high temperatures affect hoof quality, and its impact on your shoeing choices. 

Robin Dabareiner says the sandy soil area of central Texas where she lives typically has drought conditions from June through August. The Texas A&M equine vet and hoof researcher says temperatures are often well over 100 degrees F for 3 or 4 months. With no rain for up to 90 days, the grass burns up and the ground gets hard and cracks.

With dry and drought conditions, the hoof wall and sole can separate as sand is pushed up to the white line. The hoof wall will break out, leaving the horse to walk on its sole.

“This increases the incidence of solar bruising and subsequent abscesses,” she says. “This may increase the risk of the horse developing vertical hoof cracks, especially in the toe area.”

Difficult Diagnosis

Due to the hardness of the feet, sole bruising, pending hoof abscesses and laminitis may not show up with hoof tester examination. She finds other diagnostic options such as digital pulses, nerve blocks and radiology are more helpful in reaching a correct diagnosis.

Dry, brittle hooves can also aggravate musculoskeletal problems.

As an example, she cites the mismatched feet syndrome where one foot has a long toe, low heel conformation and the contralateral hoof is narrow with an upright heel.

“These horses normally have navicular area pain in the lower heeled hoof and coffin…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has spent more than 50 years in the agricultural and equine publishing business. The sixth generation member to live on the family’s Centennial farm in Michigan, he is the Editor/Publisher of American Farriers Journal.

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