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Horse Hooves: A Beginner’s Guide

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If you’re considering getting a horse or are a first time horse owner, one of the more important aspects of their care is hoof maintenance. A horse’s hooves provide the foundation of a healthy life. Without healthy hooves, horses cannot walk, run, or carry. Horses can also get specific illnesses that enter through weak or damaged hooves. Thus, the best way to keep your horse healthy and happy is through routine hoof maintenance. In order to help first time horse owners, we’ve put together this guide that includes details about what hooves are, what kind of damage they can incur, and how to care for them. Let’s get started!

What is a hoof exactly?

Horses are ungulates, which are a group of mammals that support their weight using the tips of their toes. The hoof is made primarily of keratin, the same component that makes hair, nails, and horns. The sole of the hoof is soft and rubbery, surrounded by a solid nail rolled around the tip of the toe. Hooves grow constantly, like fingernails, and wear wear down from use.

The anatomy of a horse hoof

As a horse owner, it is important that you know the anatomy of a horse’s hoof. Knowing the anatomy will help you groom your horse and look for common hoof ailments. Here are the basic parts of a hoof:

  • Hoof Wall: The hoof wall is essentially the nail.
  • White Line: Though actually yellowish, the white line is next to the inner hoof wall.
  • Frog: The leathery v-shape at the back of the hoof near the heel.
  • Bar: The bar is an extension of the hoof wall that runs along the frog.
  • Angle Of The Bar: The angle of the bar is where the wall angles into the bar along the frog.
  • Collateral Groove: The collateral groove is the divot between the bar and the frog.
  • Heel Bulb: Is the very back of the heel where you find a bulb-like shape on each side.
  • Sole: The sole is the area inside the white line not including the frog or the bars.
  • Central Sulcus: The divot inside of the center of the frog.
  • Toe: The toe is the front third of the hoof.
  • Quarter: The quarter is the middle third of the hoof, also considered the sides of the hoof.
  • Heel: The heel is the back third of the hoof.

Common hoof problems

Hooves are vulnerable to a variety of issues. These can result from pathogens, poor diet, and poor grooming. Here are some of the most common hoof problems all horse owners need to know how to recognize:

  • Hoof Bruise: Hooves can bruise from trauma, just like how our fingernails can bruise. Hoof bruises are fairly easy to recognize, you will see patches of discoloration on the hoof surface. Hoof bruises cause lameness.
  • Hoof Abscess: A hoof abscess is an infection inside of the hoof. Although hard to see, abscesses will cause your horse to go suddenly and severely lame. This lameness can even come and go as your horse’s immune system fights the infection.
  • Laminitis: Laminitis is an inflammation of the sensitive laminae of the hoof, which is the internal anatomy under the sole and behind the hoof wall. Laminitis is noticeable with lameness, refusal or reluctance to bear any weight, and warm throbbing feet.
  • Navicular Syndrome: Navicular syndrome is a broad term that describes any type of pain in the heel or bulb. There are multiple root causes of navicular syndrome, and the best way to notice it is by lameness.
  • Quarter Crack: A quarter crack is a vertical crack found on the quarter. Typically you will notice these between the widest part of the hoof and the heel. A severe quarter crack will lead to your horse limping.
  • Thrush: Thrush is an infection in the frog of the hoof. There are two main ways you can recognize thrush. The first is by your horse’s hooves having a strong, putrid smell. The second is by sight. Thrush causes a black discharge in and around the frog.
  • White Line Disease: White line disease is an infection of the white line. It causes the layers of the hoof wall to separate, so it is very easy to spot.

Most of these ailments can be prevented by following a routine of good hoof care.

How to care for your horse’s Hooves

Caring for your horse’s  hooves comes down to four basic things:

  1. Trimming: Horse hooves constantly grow and just like fingernails, need to be trimmed on occasion. Trimming should be done every one to two months depending on how fast your horse’s hooves grow and wear down. Trimming is difficult and I recommend you work with a trained farrier if you are a new horse owner. Without the skill and technique, you could trim the hooves too short, causing lameness.
  2. Picking: Picking should be done every day, but especially before and after any riding. You will need to invest in a horse pick. A horse pick will help dislodge all the dirt, manure, and debris that gets trapped in your horse’s hooves. Picking out the dirt can help prevent infection from bacteria and fungus. It will also make your horse more comfortable. The best way to learn how to pick is by working with your farrier.
  3. Washing: Washing should be done after picking. Start by gently rinsing your horse’s hoof area with water and gently dry with a towel to remove any debris. Then spray the sole with Kiss a Frog Foot Wash and let dry completely. This will help to keep the area clean and protect your horse against infections such as thrush and mud fever, while keeping their sole from softening.
  4. Moisturizing: Moisturizing is important to help strengthen the keratin and make the hoof flexible to reduce damage. After you’ve washed and dried the hoof, spray the exterior of the hoof on the coronary band with Jojoba Hoof Moisturizing Mist then let it air dry. This fast-absorbing mist conditions the hoof to help reduce chipping and cracking. It will also help to improve the look and performance of the hoof.

During grooming, you should look for any signs of the common ailments that can hurt your horse’s hooves. If you notice anything, be delicate and contact your farrier or veterinarian.

There are many horse hoof care products on the market. However, most of them are made with chemical agents that can actually degrade the keratin and leave the hooves vulnerable to illness and injury. Horse hoof care products made with natural ingredients that strengthen the keratin like those made by Equi-Spa are the best to keep your horse’s hooves healthy and strong. You can read more about hoof maintenance on our blog, give us a call at 515-770-3517 or email us and we’ll happily answer any questions about our natural horse hoof products.

118 thoughts on “Horse Hooves: A Beginner’s Guide

  1. Imagine if people had hooves that would be wild

    1. This is alot of information to take in…I would need time to study this..😁

    2. I didn’t know there is so much learn about horse hooves interesting.

  2. I think I now wish to become a farrier🐎🐎🐎🐴💕

    1. They are needed. We have a hard time getting reliable ferriers and our mare came down 😒 lame. So sad when you need that ferrier and then they no show. Makes it really hard.

  3. great information

  4. We have had horses all my life. My daddy took care of their hooves until he was no longer able to do so. Then a horse man starter coming out every 4-6 weeks to maintain them. I watched every time trying to learn myself. I’m glad to learn where to get quality ingredients to use

  5. This is great for beginners!

    1. Yes,very informative

  6. Interesting, I didn’t know there was so much to hooves.

  7. Very informative article and easy to understand

  8. that’s nice for a beginner to know thank you

  9. “There are many horse hoof care products on the market. However, most of them are made with chemical agents that can actually degrade the keratin and leave the hooves vulnerable to illness and injury.”

    I didn’t know this! When I was a kid at horsecamp, we used a chemical-smelling (synthetic?) hoof polish on all the horses like it was going out of style. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best thing to do- yikes! Thanks for the informative article! 🙂

  10. Great info! Thanks for the article!

  11. Shared this information!

  12. Great Information !

  13. So much more to hooves than I thought

  14. A lot of great information! Thank you very much!

  15. Thank you for this educational info.

  16. thank you for all the information .. i always wondered if it hurt the horses hoofs when the shoes are put on

  17. I will pass this information on to my sister. I never knew how much care went into grooming horses and caring for their hooves. Thank you

  18. Thanks for the helpful info!

  19. wow

  20. People dont realize how much care goes into a horses hoofs and its extremely important

  21. Never knew horses had thrush too. Great read!

  22. Another great thing to learn from this site. People don’t realize the care a horse needs.

  23. Thank-you so much for providing this! I really didn’t know where to start.

  24. CooL

  25. I had no idea hooves were so complicated.

  26. Good to know!

  27. This answers many of my questions . thank you

  28. Wow great advice

  29. Thank you for the great advice!

  30. Nice info on horse hooves..!

  31. A very nice introduction to hoof care. I have a cousin who owns horses, and I have watched Animal Planet vet shows as well. I would like to try Jojoba Hoof Moisturizing Mist for my own fingernails, which are prone to cracking.

  32. Interesting

  33. awesome to know this ty

  34. Very useful information. On how to keep healthy horses.

  35. I have fond memories of cleaning our pony’s hooves back in the day. Thanks for posting!

  36. This was some great information thank you

  37. i didnt know u had to wash after picking was never told or showed that

  38. thank you

  39. Great advice!

  40. Very informative…

  41. This is very interesting.

  42. One of the most important parts of the horse. All good tips, especially cleaning daily. I love the natural ingredients in the products which all will make the horse more comfortable!

  43. Thumbs Up!

  44. Interesting and important information.

  45. Horses are my best friends

  46. I never knew there was so much to know about taking care of hooves! Thank you for the great information.

  47. We used to have a guy come and clean the feet and teeth of our ponies…they lived getting their feet done!

  48. Très bon à savoir

  49. Hooves get the moves!

  50. Well structured an quite informative.

  51. Très bien fait et utile au débutant!

  52. Some much more to the anatomy and care of a hoof than most people realize! Good read!

  53. This is very fascinating information.

  54. Incredible photo

  55. Lots of great information!

  56. This is a very detailed article. 🙂 It’s a lot of hard work caring for horses.

  57. The things you learn online!

  58. I think that it’s important to take care of a horse’s hooves as preventative care. I think that once a horse gets an infection that it would be a costly visit to the vet.

  59. Perfect! This is so essential.

  60. I didn’t know how much care is need to keep a horses hoof healthy.

  61. Boosting Your Horse’s Health

  62. thanks

  63. Thanks!


  65. Horse hovees A beginners guide

  66. Very informative. Thanks for the article.

  67. Easy to learn about, hard to master.

  68. Nice advice!

  69. Thanks for the tips!!

  70. Good advices, thanks!

  71. great info thx!!!

  72. great info thx for that!

  73. Gotta take care of the feet!

  74. Thanks for all the information

  75. I didn’t know how much work was needed.

  76. I didn ‘t know how much work is involved in horse care. This was a great overview.

  77. The job you guys are doing is great.

  78. So much info invaluable resource Thankyou

  79. Makes you wonder if God does exist (-;

  80. I remember my dad doing this when I was a kid.

  81. great information for beginners like me

  82. nice

  83. good information

  84. I appreciate this knowledge!

  85. Good guide here

  86. Great read and advice.

  87. So important to keep those hooves clean and healthy!

  88. Good info! Thankyou 🙂

  89. Good information

  90. This is a great starter, and helpful for even experts to learn from.

  91. What a great info trove for someone at the “interested about horses” point. A lot of work, well appreciated!

  92. I didn’t realize how much work goes into keeping a horse’s hooves in good shape.

  93. my mom hand an old set she had from back in the day, it is definitely a unique skill set for people who take the time to do it, and very good to always keep hooves in tip top shape!

  94. Nice article!

  95. Great article important need to know helpful information thankyou

  96. Excellent article

  97. Great Info !!

  98. Enjoyed reading !!!

  99. This is extremely important for beginners. My sister takes great care of her horses and hooves is at the top of the list.

  100. I always knew the importance of good care but you definitely provided information that I was unaware of

  101. like i said in previous comments we live in the horse capital of the world. You would not believe how many people who have had horses for a while do not clean their hooves right.

  102. great information of taking care of a horse thanks for sharing

  103. Very interesting

  104. Very informative. Thanks for sharing

  105. Wonderfully written

  106. Hoof care is so important! Thanks for the great read

  107. Thanks for all of the great info!

  108. Such great information when your starting out with your new horse. Seems like you will end up knowing others who have been through some of these issues with there horses.

  109. Great to know about the horses hooves

  110. Great information thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  111. I wish I could afford a horse.

  112. I love the information, and appreciate the insight, and thanks for sharing.

  113. Taking care of their hooves is so important!

  114. It’s funny that horses don’t mind. I wonder if it feels good to them. I don’t even like cutting my own nails.

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