A horses's weak or soft hooves can be a side effect of unlucky genetics or extended exposure to wet conditions. A horse with a soft sole or frog may experience lameness issues due to the frog or sole becoming bruised and tender as the horse walks through rough terrain or gets a rock stuck in its foot. Hardening up the frog and sole of a horse's foot can be done in several ways but may be most effectively done by combining techniques.
Contact a farrier and have him check the horse's feet thoroughly. Make certain the problems your horse is experiencing are due to a soft frog or sole and not another hoof condition, such as thrush or lameness caused by navicular disease or some other medical condition. The same wet conditions that often lead to a soft sole can also be a key factor in a condition such as thrush, which can cause permanent lameness issues if not treated properly. A farrier may have a specially formulated medication or product to put on the horse's frog to treat the problem.
Move your horse to a dry pasture or paddock. If the horse is standing on wet ground, in water or in mud, the hooves will naturally be softer than they would otherwise. Standing in wet conditions will cause problems, especially if your horse is already inclined to having tender feet or soft soles. If the horse is in a stall, make sure the stall is kept clean and dry and has excellent drainage.
Apply a medication or product to the sole of the horse's hoof that is designed to harden the hoof. Some horse owners purchase special products for hardening the frog; others apply iodine to their horse's frog. Consult a farrier to determine which product would be most effective for your horse's unique foot condition and your climate.
Ride the horse on rough or hard terrain. A horse's hooves will adapt to riding on rough or hard terrain. Many riders put shoes on their horse's to help protect them from tough riding conditions and avoid sore feet, but ultimately a horse will adapt to the conditions in which it is ridden and turned out in. Gradual exposure to rougher terrain can help strengthen a horse's feet.
Remember that having the sole or frog of a horse's foot get too dry and hard can also cause problems. Drying a hoof too quickly can make it brittle and lead to cracking and lameness problems. Have a farrier continually check the condition of the horse's hooves to avoid damaging the hoof and to be recognise when the hoof is healthy.
Tips and warnings
- Remember that having the sole or frog of a horse's foot get too dry and hard can also cause problems. Drying a hoof too quickly can make it brittle and lead to cracking and lameness problems. Have a farrier continually check the condition of the horse's hooves to avoid damaging the hoof and to be recognise when the hoof is healthy.