Corro Stories

Caring for Your Horse's Hooves During Winter

By Liv Gude

Caring for your horse’s hooves is essential all year-round. After all, healthy hooves are key to overall horse health. However, the winter can present some specific challenges to caring for your horse’s feet. During this season, a horse might experience a change in diet due to changing pasture conditions. Frozen ground and snow conditions also play a role in winter hoof care. 

Good hoof care starts with nutrition and supplements. Then, you can add in daily maintenance, topical products, and even boots to help your horse's hooves stay in top shape. These techniques and products can help carry your horse through winter and beyond.

To celebrate International Hoof Care Week, Corro is offering 10% off hoof care products featured here from January 26th - January 31st, 2021. Enter HOOF10 at checkout to receive a discount on select hoof care products as seen below.


Start with feeding for optimal hoof health

Hoof health starts with proper feeding for optimal hoof health.

Your horse's ideal diet should contain plenty of forage, a ration balancer, or fortified feed to add vitamins and minerals, and, of course, treats. Hoof supplements can fill in any gaps that might be affecting the hoof quality. 

Choosing a hoof supplement for your horse begins with the ingredients. Supplements specific for horse hooves contain proteins, vitamins, minerals, and even fats. 

Keratin, a protein, is the primary component of the hoof wall. Amino acids make up proteins, and it's common to see the amino acids lysine and methionine as hoof supplement ingredients. These are not the only amino acids required by a horse to make proteins, but these two can impact keratin. 

Lysine and methionine are essential amino acids. Your horse must eat them to provide protein-making ingredients. Other types of amino acids are made by your horse's body and are not required in food. 

In many cases, a horse's typical diet lacks lysine, which is why it's added into supplements, bagged grains, and feeds. Methionine is a specific type of essential amino acid that contains sulfur. These sulfur-containing amino acids help the structure of the hoof wall.  

You will find vitamins and minerals in hoof supplements as well. Minerals, such as zinc and copper, help the hoof's cell walls stay healthy and connected. Biotin is a B-vitamin and is considered the glue that holds hoof cells together.  

Lastly, hoof supplements contain fat. Common fats that you will see on hoof product labels are omega-3 fatty acids and choline. These fats keep the hoof flexible.  

When choosing an equine hoof product to feed your horse, involve your vet and farrier. Your horse's team can help you narrow down some possible ingredients that may benefit your horse. Be sure that any supplements you want to add don't overlap with your horse's current feed program, giving your horse too much of something.  

The average hoof takes nine months to grow from the coronary band to the toe. Any added benefits of a hoof supplement will take months to realize fully. Keep up with the recommended daily dose, and use Corro’s Autoship to keep your feed room stocked and avoid running out of your essential horse care products.

Treat the outside of your horse's hoof

Treat the outside of your horse's hoof.

Topical hoof care products are designed for painting on the hoof wall, sole, or frog. Hoof dressings can generally be classified by their purpose and ingredients. Reading the instructions for each bottle also gives valuable information about where to apply the product. 

Conditioners aim to keep the hoof wall's moisture balance consistent, and many contain oils and glycerin to help hooves in both dry and wet conditions. Moisturizers and conditioners are usually safe for application all over the hoof wall. 

Hardeners aim to help the lower parts of the hoof wall and the sole. Hoof hardening agents include ingredients like Venice turpentine. Some contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and require protective gloves and other forms of protection for safe use. Hoof hardeners are typically for the sole and sometimes around the lower area of the hoof wall. 

Sealers act in a way to wall off moisture from the hoof. This is similar to a hardener, but without the turpentine, usually. Shine is the bonus here.

Just about every topical hoof product doubles as a dressing for the show ring. Sealers provide shine without any residue that may attract dirt and footing. Some conditioners are available in different colors or tints, as well. If you show your horse, it's worth checking with your horse show association's rule book to verify what hoof dressing colors are allowed in the ring.

Absorbine Hooflex All Natural Dressing And Conditioner

Absorbine Hooflex All Natural Dressing and Conditioner helps restore moisture to the entire hoof and enhance natural color. This hoof dressing revives hooves to their healthiest state.

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Keratex Hoof Hardener

Keratex Hoof Hardener improves the molecular structure of the hoof by strengthening bonds to create a harder, more durable hoof structure. It also prevents the horn from taking in excess moisture, maintaining its natural moisture level to prevent cracking and brittleness.

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Absorbine SuperShine Hoof Polish & Sealer

Absorbine SuperShine Hoof Polish & Sealer protects the hooves from wetness and moisture while providing a high-gloss, show ready finish.

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Managing a clean hoof and dealing with thrush

You can't pick your horse's hooves too much. The hoof pick removes mud, manure, dirt, and stones from the bottom of the horse’s feet.

Nothing beats a primary hoof pick with a brush for the care of your horse's sole and frog. It's also safe to say that you can't pick your horse's hooves too much. The hoof pick removes mud, manure, dirt, and stones from the bottom of the horse’s feet. Use the brush to remove the smaller bits of dirt from the sole. Concentrate your efforts in the grooves alongside the frog and the rim of the horseshoe.  

A thoroughly picked out hoof can sometimes reveal the presence of thrush, which is bacteria that survives without oxygen that can invade the grooves and the frog's middle, creating an infection. It smells horrible, and you might spot some black goop deep in the grooves. Thrush also occurs at the intersection of the sole and horseshoe.  

Treating thrush begins with a clean hoof. Use your hoof pick's brush to sweep away every last bit of dirt. Then use a hose to rinse the hoof's bottom. Pat the sole dry and apply your favorite thrush treatment. For mild cases of thrush, using topical medications will help. Thrush treatments come in the form of pastes, lotions, and even powders. Most cases of thrush should clear up within three days of using products. If you suspect your horse has thrush or if it doesn’t seem to clear up, it’s best to confer with your farrier about proper treatment. (Read more about thrush and how to treat it here.)

Caring for your horse's hoof sole

The sole may benefit from a poultice or hoof packing. A poultice is a general term for a substance, like clay, that draws out heat from the tissue. You typically find these dressings for lower legs on horses, but the hoof can benefit as well.

Hoof poultice is usually Epsom salt-based and has a few uses. Sore hooves might be relieved with a sole pack of Epsom salts. Other hoof poultices are clay-based and come in pads for easy application. Sole packs, such as Magic Cushion, work similarly to a poultice to relieve tenderness and act as a drawing agent.  

While hoof poultice and drawing agents are helpful, they may not be appropriate for some hoof problems. Should your horse become hoof sore or experience soundness issues, connect with your veterinarian to rule out serious hoof issues that may require veterinary medicine and treatments. Seemingly common hoof problems like a small bruise often present the same as dangerous laminitis.

Durvet Epsom Salt Poultice for Pain Relief

Durvet Epsom Salt Poultice for Pain Relief provides fast-acting pain relief for inflammation, arthritis pain, and other aches.

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Bigeloil Quilted Poultice Hoof Pads are a “no-mess” hoof poultice solution that makes hoof care quick and easy. The quilted pockets contain traditional poultice ingredients, allowing for quick, easy, mess-free application and removal. Pads can be used whenever hoof heat, bruising, or general soreness is a concern, or after competition or heavy work.

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Special considerations for winter

Hoof care is crucial all year long, but during the winter, hard and frozen ground can be an added challenge.

Hard and frozen ground is a challenge for many horses in winter. Stone bruises, abscesses, and general soreness are side effects of being on harder surfaces. Thin-soled horses are especially vulnerable to these ailments. 

Hoof boots can work to prevent hoof injuries and protect the hoof should one occur. Some boots fit like a glove to allow for exercise while being worn. Other boot styles are more flexible and give room for poultice and packing to surround the hoof. Some are more appropriate for barefoot horses, while different types can work with both shod and barefoot horses. 

Snow packed hooves present another challenge for many horse owners. Snowballs getting stuck in the sole give your horse wobbly high-heels, and can potentially lead to injuries. Hoof boots help prevent snow from packing the hoof. You can also try applying your favorite oily hoof dressing to the sole to discourage snow from sticking to the hoof's bottom surface. 

Winter also slows the growth rate of the hooves. Factor this into your farrier's shoeing schedule. A slower growth rate also means cracks and other imperfections take longer to grow out. Keep up with appropriate supplements and preventative hoof care to make up for this lag in hoof growth.  

It’s important to take the time this winter to keep your horse's hooves in top shape so that they can be ready to carry you into spring and some much warmer weather.

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