Seven Worst Mistakes in Equine Hoof Care

Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by Allison Price

Avoid these common hoof-care errors that could put your horse’s safety and health at risk.

The old saying “no horse, no hoof” is well-known because it demonstrates how important hoof care really is. Proper care of your horse’s feet is crucial for his health. A simple error can turn a sound horse into one that is ill-mannered.

With almost 30 years of experience as an equine veterinarian, I have seen many hoof-care errors over the years. This article will discuss the seven most common hoof-care mistakes. I’ll explain what they are, how they can be avoided, and the possible consequences.

Blunder #1 Infrequent Farrier Visits

When caring for your horse, the farrier serves two important functions. He helps maintain the health and integrity of your horse’s foot structure, including the sole, hoof wall, and frog. He also ensures the proper balance of the feet. You could end up in trouble if your horse’s feet are allowed to rest between visits to the farrier.

Hoof walls can chip or break most commonly. As your horse grows longer, the white line, which is the junction of the hoof wall with the underlying structures, will lose its integrity. This is a perfect environment for sole abscesses or bruising, which can become more severe over time.

Cracks that begin small can grow vertically and can lead to instability and long-term lameness.

Farrier visits are crucial to keep your horse’s feet healthy and in balance. If your horse is inclined to grow a longer toe than normal, it can put excessive pressure on structures like the navicular bone or navicular bursae. Your farrier’s job includes keeping your horse’s toes at the right length to reduce stress. He’ll lose the battle against his horse’s tendency for long toes if he visits too often.

Set and keep a schedule. A good interval between farrier visits for most horses is six weeks. A shorter interval might be suggested if your horse has balance issues.

Also, feet grow faster in certain seasons of the year. This includes spring and summer, when temperatures are warmer and horses get more consistent exercise. Talk to your veterinarian and farrier about the best trimming/shoeing time for your horse. They will be happy to adjust it if necessary.

Blunder #2 Neglected Day Care

Although it may seem obvious, regular hoof care can make a huge difference in the long-term health and well-being of your horse’s feet.

Soggy, wet feet can lead to thrush and other conditions. If clay or mud gets into the soles of your horse’s shoes, it can cause sensitivity and bruises.

Finally, stones, sticks and other foreign objects that get stuck in cracks or crevasses may cause bruises or abscesses.

Keep your horse’s feet clean by: Picking out the feet daily if you can. This is particularly important if your horse has to be in a stall all day or only gets out once a week. If you can’t pick your horse every day (he lives in pasture), then at the very least, do a visual inspection and do a hoof picking two to three times per week. Never ride or longe on a horse’s feet.

Consider applying a thrush-fighting medication to your horse several times per week if you notice black, tarry, goo in his crevices. To fortify his soles, you can apply a sole toughener to them on a daily basis.

To improve your horse’s overall health, you can add a biotin supplement into his daily diet if his hooves are weak or prone to breaking.

Blunder #3 Poor Conditions

If your horse is left in mud for long periods of time, it will cause serious problems to his feet. His soles will be tender and his hoof walls will begin to crumble. What will happen? The result? Thrush, bruising, or abscesses.

However, if he has been pushed onto large rocks, gravel, or other hard/uneven ground, he may experience a more serious problem such as a coffin bone fracture.

Focus on his environment. Avoid overcrowding in large pastures and install mudresistant footing (such sand over gravel bases) in high-traffic areas around feeders, troughs and gates. Consider sand, or other hoof-friendly footing options if he is in a stall that has a day turn-out.

Fault #4 Do-It Yourself Approach

Would you perform surgery yourself? Most likely not. If you are like most people, you will seek out a surgeon who has performed the procedure in question many times before.

It is not difficult to care for your horse’s feet. It takes skill, education, and experience to properly trim hoofs with an eye for maintaining the correct balance. Even if you are taught how to trim your horse’s hoofs by someone else, it is unlikely that you will be able to trim his feet properly if you only try.

When it comes to putting on shoes? Forget it. It’s a lie. I have never seen a non-farrier own horse “well shod.”

Don’t forget to say no. Although it may seem unbelievable, I found an article online entitled “Beginner’s Guide to Shoeing Horses”. It included detailed instructions. My advice? Hit delete.

Blunder #5 The Mediocre Farrier

Refer to #4. A reliable, skilled, and experienced farrier is the best person to help your horse’s health. When choosing a farrier, experience and competence should be your top priorities.

You can save even more money by not having to pay more for horse care.

Be specific: Get solid references before choosing a farrier. A good place to start is your veterinarian. It is interesting to note that the most respected farriers are those who have strong working relationships with veterinarians. Farriers with less experience may be more defensive when confronted with veterinary intervention.

A farrier should have at least three years experience beyond school. Apprenticing with an experienced farrier is a common way to get the best out of your farrier.

Look for someone who is available to answer calls and texts, and can help with lost shoes or other issues.

Blunder #6 Fixing what Ain’t Broken

Your horse is healthy and well-trained. You’ve had the most amazing summer competing in local breed shows, and trail riding in the mountains. This is especially because your horse was lame for most of the summer. Your vet and farrier finally came up with a shoeing plan that made a big difference.

You’ve decided to give your horse a rest now that summer is over and you will be pulling his boots for winter. What? Why? You won’t believe it, but I can guarantee that your farrier or vet will pull their hair out when your horse is lame again in a month.

This is a common scenario that I see. Finally, we get the horse in order and keep him sound. The owner decides to cut down on the cost of buying pads and to go back to normal shoes. Guess what? Those special shoes or pads most likely helped your horse to stay sound.

Keep your eyes on the prize Don’t let go. Be consistent. Do not change any if your horse is healthy and well. This is particularly important if your horse has ever had any soundness issues that have required special shoeing.

Your vet and farrier should be consulted first if you are serious about making changes. They are the ones who can help you decide what and how to do it.

Blunder #7 Ignoring Youngsters’ Feet

How a horse grows can have an impact on the hoof balance. It is important to keep your horse’s feet balanced throughout his development. This will influence not only his foot shape but also his ability to straighten his legs as he matures. His future is determined by what happens to him when he’s young.

You want your horse to be able to stand and assist the shoer from the beginning. Farriering is physically and mentally demanding. Your farrier must be able to keep your horse quiet while doing their job. Your farrier will not be able to do his job well if your horse behaves badly.

Start hoof care early. Start picking up your foal’s feet as soon as he is born. Your farrier should start trimming your foal’s feet at 8-10 weeks old. If you notice a problem such as an upright foot, or crooked leg, it is best to do so before that time. Plan to maintain a regular grooming and trimming schedule for your horse throughout his life.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!