How to harden the soles of a horse's hooves

Updated November 21, 2016

Soft hoof soles are usually caused by the horse's environment. Standing in urine, manure, water or mud will rapidly cause problems and infection in the sole of the horse's hoof. Keeping the horse stall and environment clean, dry and free of contaminants is the best way to help harden the soles of hooves. In areas such as pastures where environmental controls are more difficult, fitting the horse with a good hoof boot with a sole pack inside will help heal soft hoof problems.

Strip the stall clean. For a horse with soft soles, completely remove everything from the stall and start fresh. Use a shovel to remove all manure and urine-soaked shavings in the stall. Dig out any urine holes in the stall. Place all dirty materials in a wheelbarrow and move them to a disposal area.

Fill the urine holes with sand and cover the surface of the stall with sand or rubber mats. Mats will prevent urine from soaking into the ground, but will retain moisture in the bedding. When using rubber mats to line the stall, twice-daily stall maintenance is recommended.

Place horse bedding or shavings over the stall floor or rubber mats. Shavings will absorb urine and moisture and prevent further damage to the horse's hooves. Shavings should be at least 4 inches deep in the stall to keep it dry.

Remove the bedding or shavings daily. Use a pitchfork to sift the manure from the shavings and use a shovel to remove urine-soaked bedding. The drier the stall, the harder the hoof soles, so cleaning out manure and wet bedding at least once daily --- preferably twice --- is important when dealing with hoof problems. Standing in manure and moisture is the cause of most hoof sole issues.

Pick the horse's hooves at least once a day. Take the horse out of the stall and remove any moist bedding stuck in the sole. Pick out each hoof until it is free of debris.

Mix 1/4-part bleach to 3/4-parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the sole with the bleach/water mixture after picking out debris to help dry out moist soles. Bleach will also help kill any bacteria that may have collected in the horse's hoof.

Let the horse stand and allow the bleach solution to dry. Tie the horse where it can stand in a dry area until the bleach mixture dries.

Use hoof sole cream or gel to treat the soft sole. Lather the hoof cream or gel products specially formulated to treat the soles to help protect it and keep it from becoming too dried out.

Fit the horse with protective hoof boots. Boots are available to protect hooves in pastures or other environments where controlling moisture to the hooves is difficult. Place a medicated sole pack into the boot before putting it on the horse.


Regular hoof trimming and maintenance by a professional farrier is key to proper hoof care and soft sole prevention. Turn your horse out in a dry arena or pasture daily. Letting the horse run and kick up its heels will help free debris from its hooves and prevent moisture issues.


Don't use hoof shine products to treat soft soles. While labelled hardeners, many products are designed to make horses' hooves look good in shows and will seal bacteria into the hoof sole. Keratin-based sole hardener products are best on soles.

Things You'll Need

  • Shavings
  • Sand
  • Rubber stall mats
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Pitchfork
  • Hoof pick
  • Spray bottle
  • Bleach
  • Hoof sole cream
  • Hoof boot
  • Sole pack
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