Bad hooves

Lately I have started thinking… has my horse always had crumbly hooves? I looked back at old photos and it seems like it started 3 or so years into ownership. (Unfortunately I haven’t always been so attentive) his feet are ~okay once shod but I wouldn’t say they’re great. Towards the end of the shoeing cycle though has has huge chunks missing down by the nails! He’s on hoof supplements and coat supplements so I’d think that would help but honestly it doesn’t ever seem like it’s doing ANYTHING. Could this be something linked to his age (16)? More turnout (8-12 hrs a day)? I don’t feel it’s his diet as he’s always been fed very well but maybe I’m wrong. What does everyone do for their horses that helps best?

How frequently does the farrier trim and reset the shoes?

No hoof, no horse.

Talk to your vet to see if this is a mechanical problem (ie poor trim, lameness).

If not, i would proceed to wondering if diet is contributing to such poor hoof quality. What do you feed? There is a lot on the market with hype but minimal substance. Have you tested your grass and/or hay?

i follow this protocol and find it fool proof. We are in a high iron area and my hooves (all 12 of them) have not had an abscess in 5+ years. But that is just what worked for us. Your vet can direct you on what would work specifically in your area and for your situation.

I was going to link to Pete Ramsey but someone beat me to it!

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You are observant and wise to see this and ask the question. Whether it’s an old or a new problem, you are right that it should be addressed.

Horse hooves can change over time due to a lot factors. Diet, work, weather (even climate), changes in the footing on which he normally works, and some of the metabolic changes due to age can affect their feet.

And shoeing, farrier work and lack of farrier work can definitely have an impact as well. Even shaping the horse’s feet in a manner that doesn’t suit their natural shape, and the horse’s size and work, can cause hoof problems.

You might want to ask your vet about x-raying the feet to measure the depth of the hoof wall and sole, and see if it has become thinner than it should be. If so, that can be improved if its addressed properly.

And of course your farrier should have a lot of suggestions to help your horse’s feet. I would have thought your farrier would already be talking to you about that, because it is no treat for the farrier to have to deal with the chips and cracks when shoeing.

The other thing that could be happening is dryness. There are a number of topical treatments that can give some help with that.

And on the other side of dryness is an environment that is too wet! Some hooves don’t do well when there is a long period of consistent rain, with constant mud and wet grass.

I’m coming to believe that some horses need to live in a dry climate, and others would do better in their feet where there is more moisture. Even with all of the supplements, potions, salves and treatments in the world, it’s easier to not have nature working against you. :o

A good diet isn’t always enough, although you do have coat & hoof supplement included. Are you feeding biotin? I felt that adding the biotin helped my horse’s bad hooves quite a bit.

Are you in a particularly dry (like desert/sand) or wet (PNW) climate? While good diet/supplements are very important for hoof growth and health, they can’t really help with what mother nature throws at us.

We had a very bad drought here recently. No rain at all in nearly 6 weeks. Ground was like cement. Horses hooves were really getting dried out. So I applied a good thick hoof dressing every other day or so and that really helped. I used Hawthorns Medicated Hoof Dressing. This was a new product for me. It smells horrible, but clings really well.

Pictures of your horses hooves would be helpful.

I would be concerned about a fungal infection.

A good set of pictures would help a lot. Many times, what you describe is from chronic poor trimming, leading to long toes, weakened white line connection, thinning walls. Frequency of trimming has nothing to do with the quality of the trim, unfortunately :frowning:
Good Hoof Photos - How to take Good Hoof Photos


This is the red flag for me…" Towards the end of the shoeing cycle though has has huge chunks missing down by the nails! "

That right there says the toes are too long and that the farrier is leaving them too long at the time he does the trim/reset rather than taking them back to where they belong. This is sooooo common with farriers - to leave the toes/heels too long. The cracking is from the long toes that are trying to self trim. The length is bad enough that it’s interfering with the breakover - and when the horse breaks over, it cracks the hoof if it’s too long.

Beyond that, make sure there is enough biotin in the feed or add something like Farrier’s Forumula or Focus HF


There is also the possibility of white line disease, which will cause the hoof wall to develop hollow pockets due to fungal infection. That really needs to be addressed with the help of a knowledgeable farrier. Some farriers don’t pay attention to it, but that it can become a huge problem if not addressed. (Google for more info.)

Take the back of a metal hoof pick and rap it against the hoof wall, going around to different spots, especially above the chipped areas. Be careful about how hard you rap, increase the impact gradually. A tame horse with solid hoof walls probably won’t react. But if there are hollows, the horse may demonstrate that the rapping is uncomfortable.

And the thing you are really listening for is a hollow sound, compared with the more solid areas. Kind of like finding the studs inside a wall, or like a hollow drum resonance. That won’t be a firm diagnosis of course, but it can point toward those hollow cavities in the hoof wall.

A vet with a mobile x-ray can take foot pictures at the farm at a fairly reasonable cost. Or, of course, they can do it at the clinic. It would answer some questions, especially if you can find a vet who has a lot of experience in the foot and leg.

Also … a different possible issue - is your horse inclined to drag his toes? You can readily tell by the rounding on the front edges of his feet where they drag. That may indicate thin soles and possibly thin walls. If the horse’s feet aren’t completely comfortable with footfalls at a normal gait, even at a walk, he/she may start dragging his/her toes to compensate. Even if the horse works fairly normally on the longe and under saddle - it’s an interesting and odd characteristic to observe.

Ask your farrier to try using thinner or smaller nails.

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