Summer Hoof Care: Navigating Seasonal Challenges


Summer, with its sultry days and dramatic thunderstorms, is a season of contrasts, and within these extremes lies a unique challenge for horse owners and equestrian professionals: the health of our equine companions’ hooves. Neglecting the summer’s specific effects on hooves can lead to painful, long-term complications for our horses.

Our equine partners encounter a host of seasonal challenges that affect their hooves, but few seasons are as impactful as summer. From hot and dry to wet and muddy, the environmental shifts are vast, and managing these changes is crucial. According to Dr. David Dunlap, DVM, at Tennessee Equine Hospital South, “The hot and dry days of summer typically bring a rise in dry and brittle hooves. In addition to the hot and dry days the perpetual interchange between wet and dry conditions propel the hoof wall to become weakened. A weakened hoof wall is susceptible to cracks, chips and difficulty holding shoes. The defects created in the hoof wall can become a gateway for bacterial and fungal invasion into the hoof wall leading to a more serious condition. In the face of weakened and brittle hooves, the dry hard ground can create bruising in the soft tissues between the sole and the bones of the hoof increasing the risk of lameness.”

Tips to Maintain Healthy Hooves:
Dr. Dunlap spells out top recommendations to help keep hooves’ healthy throughout the summer. He states, “Proper hoof health is hard to achieve any time of year, but during the summer months, a solid, healthy hoof can be difficult to maintain.” His recommendations include:

  • Feeding a balanced diet with a targeted hoof supplement that supplies a range of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fats and Omega 3 fatty acids. The key vitamin and mineral nutrients include zinc, copper, biotin, and a good supply of essential amino acids such as Lysine and Methionine. Fats and Omega 3 fatty acids provide key phospholipids.
  • Focus on weight management.
  • Maintain or shorten the farrier schedule. A properly trimmed and balanced foot will be less mechanically predisposed to cracking due to landing the correct way.
  • Avoid early morning dew which is higher during the humid months.
  • Minimize standing in muddy conditions.
  • Reduce the number of baths and hosing.
  • When bathing use shields to direct water away from hooves like tight fitting bell boots and/or shellac type hoof dressing. This can also be done with night and early morning turnout.
  • Use fly sprays and fly boots to reduce stomping.
  • Clean your horse’s hooves daily to prevent stone bruises and thrush.
  • If the hooves have bacterial or fungal problems.
  • Avoid using hoof dressings that contain caustic ingredients. These ingredients provide a type of hardening that greatly reduces hoof wall elasticity and shock absorption, which makes the hooves more prone to crumbling.

“Routine hoof care, diligence and working with a farrier and veterinarian team can significantly mitigate the risks of severe hoof ailments,” Dr. Dunlap states.

Ensuring that your horse’s hooves are well-attended to in summer is a multi-faceted endeavor. By sticking to leading recommendations such as regular farrier visits, limiting moisture changes, opting for supplements designed to assist healthy hoof growth and a balanced nutrition, horses’ hooves can thrive. There are however some additional products a horse owner can avoid. Those include:

  • Petroleum-Based Products: While initially providing a sheen, these can end up blocking the hoof’s natural moisture transfer mechanisms.
  • Essential Oils that Dry: Some essential oils, like tea tree oil, can be drying and are not ideal for hooves.

According to Life Data Labs website ( and founder, J. Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS, “Do not use products that prevent oxygen from passing through the hoof wall. When oxygen is ‘sealed out’ from a non-sterile area it creates a perfect environment for hoof destroying anaerobic microorganisms. Avoid caustic materials such as formalin (formaldehyde), iodine crystals, copper sulfate and solvents such as acetone and turpentine. Greasy products which block oxygen should also be avoided.”

The summer months can pull hooves in two dramatically opposed moisture directions, leaving horse owners with the delicate balancing act of keeping them in a stable, healthy state. It’s a season to exercise vigilance and diligence to ensure that our equine companions can stride through the season with ease.

Lauren Abbott

Lauren is a lifelong equestrian. She was born and raised in Memphis, Tenn. Lauren has worked in Journalism for over 20 years and has served as a staff writer, designer, photographer, audience and business development consultant, & advertising senior executive. She is the Owner & Publisher of MSHR, and CEO of Ford Abbott Media, LLC, the parent company of the Horse Review and Hunt & Field Magazine.

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