Constant change from moist to dry is detrimental to horse hooves. “Even in regions that don’t get a lot of rain, this can be an issue,” mentioned Travis Burns, MSc, CJF, TE, EE, FWCF, chief of farrier providers on the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, in Blacksburg, Virginia. “Here, we have morning dew, then everything dries out later in the day. If we can bring horses in from pasture by late evening (before early morning dew) and then turn them out after the dew has burned away in late morning, the feet do a lot better.”
Continual change between moist and dry can result in hoof cracks (similar to our fingers get chapped after being frequently out and in of water). “This opens up the foot to microbes that can cause subsolar abscesses, white line disease, thrush, canker, etc.,” Burns mentioned. “A strong, healthy hoof surface is the best defense against these invaders.”
Just as mud is the enemy of hoof well being, so is frequent bathing. “Many people hose down the horse after a race or workout, getting the feet wet, then put the horse in a clean, dry stall where the foot dries out and shrinks,” he defined. “With these cyclic events the foot is constantly expanding (when wet) and shrinking as it dries. This leads to microcracks and fissures, which allow opportunistic microbes to invade.”
Even present horses in completely clear environments can develop hoof issues from continuous bathing. “Clinches pop, the shoes come loose, their hooves crack,” Burns mentioned. “We recommend applying a hoof sealant to the feet, allowing it to dry before you bathe the horse.” This makes the hoof quickly waterproof and retains it from absorbing a lot moisture.
“This is much more effective than hosing the feet and then painting a sealant on after they are already wet,” he added. “Before you bathe the horse, you should pick out the feet, use a wire brush to get them clean, paint the sealant on, and let it dry—and then bathe the horse. It is remarkable, the difference this will make.”