Dry Hoof? Here’s How To Soften Horse Hooves For Trimming?

By Zunnun Ahmed •  Updated: 09/30/22 •  9 min read

Like our fingernails & toenails, horse hooves grow continuously. 

So no wonder these majestic creatures need regular trimming too. Overgrown hooves can result in severe health problems because the horse walks on its feet. This stretches the tendons and eventually causes lameness.

The simple truth is……

Healthy Hoof = Healthy Horse.

You may ask what happened to the wild horses. Well, they don’t require trimming because the hooves wear out naturally due to frequent action on hard terrains.

Make sense?

Softening the hooves makes them manageable to work with, unlike working with hard and dry hooves. Let’s see how to soften horse hooves for trimming without hurting your loved one.

dry horse hoof

But first…..why you should soften horse hooves before trimming

Well, the most obvious reason is this makes the trimming process easier. 

Let me explain why:

If you attempt to trim the hooves when they are dry and hard, you and your horse will have a frustrating time. Softening the hooves before trimming makes the trimming process a lot easier. Trimming horses’ hooves regularly is crucial because overgrown hooves can-

And it doesn’t stop there!

Softening the horse hooves before trimming promotes healthy hoof growth for domestic horses. It also boosts circulation in the affected areas, leading to healing and a healthy hoof. 

And how often do you trim your horse’s hooves? Well, according to trained farriers, you should trim your horse’s hooves every 4-6 weeks.

Here’s why:

Trimming the hooves regularly after a couple of weeks gives them good shape, makes them healthy, and reduces the risks of infectious lesions. Since trimming a dry hoof can be extremely difficult, you should know how to soften horse hooves for trimming.

See also: Find out how horses have managed to survive without the need for regular hoof trimming.

So, how to soften horse hooves for trimming?

Trust me, Softening horse hooves will make your trimming a lot easier. 

And guess what?

The process of softening the hooves is not complicated if you follow the right tips. I have gathered some essential steps you should follow for a successful hoof-soaking process.

how to soften horse hooves for trimming?

Step 1: Practice before

It is good to practice soaking the hooves before so that your horse can get used. This will help you see how your horse reacts and whether he loves the process or not. When your horse is used to hoof soaking, he will prepare mentally for the trimming and be calm, which will make your work smoother.

Step 2: Decide what you will use to soak the hooves

Do you need a bucket or a boot? 

Well, The option you use depends on how comfortable your horse feels. Some horses don’t like to feel as if their feet are trapped in a closed container. Using a shallower container works better. However, a boot works better if you use hoof-soaking products.

Step 3: Add water

Add water to your container, and you can go ahead with the soaking process. Many horses have no problem getting their hooves or feet wet.

Step 4: Soak the hooves

When everything is ready, take the foot and soak it in water. Let the hooves soak for 20 minutes to make them soft. If your horse removes the foot when soaking, start the process again.

Step 5: The trimming process

When the hooves are softened, start the trimming process. Sometimes they can get dry before you finish trimming. In such cases, take a break and soak the hooves once more. Alternatively, you can use a spray bottle to keep the moist as you trim.


Natural ingredients that are good for softening horse hoof trimming

What they say…….” Natural ingredients are the best remedies”.

They are backed by science and are not harmful to health. As a horse owner, I always prefer natural things to dress hoof for all of my domestic horses. Here is a list of my favorite Home Remedies.

#1 Water

Shocker, right?

Yup, the easiest way you can soften the hooves before trimming is by soaking them in water. 

All you have to do is……

Soak the horse’s feet for about 30 minutes or an hour before trimming. This makes the trimming process manageable. When the hooves get dry, wet them during the trimming process.

#2 Mud

Apart from water, you can use mud to soften the hooves. When the hooves are subjected to wet, muddy conditions, the soles soften, and this makes trimming easier.

#3 Butter

Butter has been used for many years to make tough hooves soft before trimming. 

I am not kidding.

Over the years, barefoot farriers have been using butter as a pre-trim, and it works well. It contains essential ingredients that permeate the cell walls of the hooves to make them soft.

#4 Oil

While hooves maintain a natural moisture balance, sometimes they get dry, brittle, and cracked. You can apply hoof oil to make the hooves softer and prevent them from drying out, especially during colder weather. 

And the best part? You can use tea tree oil, oregano oil, neatsfoot oil, or make homemade hoof oil.

#5 Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is not only good for softening the horse’s hooves but also effective for treating thrush, white line disease, and abscesses, among other minor ailments. It softens and moisturizes the hooves, although short-term while maintaining proper foot pH.


How is the hoof conditioner- is it safe for the horse?

The fact is:

Horse hooves get at least 90% of the moisture from the lymph vessels and blood. The other percentage comes from the sole.

Wondering why am I saying this suddenly.

Well, using modern hoof conditioners softens the hooves because they effectively prevent moisture from evaporating from the hoof capsule.

Yes, they are totally safe.

In fact, applying an approved hoof conditioner regularly helps to soften the hooves. Many hoof conditioners on the market have phospholipids that maintain proper moisture balance.

What about Hoof Supplements?

Hooves can become dry and hard to trim if your horse is not on a balanced diet. Adding a hoof supplement is beneficial to keep moisture balanced. These supplements contain minerals, vitamins, and amino acids that lead to healthier and stronger hooves.

But Note: When choosing a hoof conditioner, ensure it doesn’t have harmful ingredients. Moreover, it should not block oxygen. The best hoof conditioner contains antimicrobial properties that prevent cracks.

Does trimming horse hooves hurt?

Just like trimming your fingernails doesn’t hurt, trimming horse hooves shouldn’t hurt, either. 

….if you trim correctly.

The hoof area has no sensation because it comprises dead tissues. 

But do you know excessive trimming is painful and can lead to complications? When you trim your horse too short, you will notice pink coloring on the hoof wall. As a result, the horse suffers from a sore foot.

Over-trimming can also remove too much sole hence exposing sensitive areas. Short trims are also prone to bruising on the hoof’s edges, which causes pain.

How can you tell your horse is hurting after trimming or shoeing?

Here is how!

If your horse’s foot hurts as a result of over-trimming, horse owners should practice proper horse care to prevent a higher risk of lameness and hoof soreness. Talk to your farrier or your vet to diagnose the problem and seek the right treatment. 

Other ways to help a horse suffering from sore hooves include using a hoof boot, hoof hardener, hoof packing, soft turnouts, and more shavings.

Keep in mind: Over-trimming the hooves raises the inside sole, and the horse puts more weight on the sole than the outside wall.

why you should soften horse hooves before trimming

How to treat dry cracked hooves?

A hoof crack or dry hoof can result in many issues. 

Before you find the proper remedy, it is good to find the cause of the dry, cracked hooves. Many factors lead to hoof cracks, like heavy workloads, short shoes, poor diet, inactivity, coronary band trauma, and extreme environmental conditions.

The most common types of hoof cracks include…..

Luckily, you can prevent these cracks with regular inspection, regular trimming, and of course, good nutrition. Here are some essential tips that can help you deal with dry, cracked hooves.

See also: Keratex vs Durasole. If you are wondering which one of these products is better for your horse, then read on to find out.

The bottom line

The secret to maintaining healthy hooves for your horse is regular trimming. 

When your horse has overgrown hooves, they experience pain and discomfort and it can also lead to serious health issues. That is why farriers recommend trimming your horse’s hooves after every 4-6 weeks.

Trimming hard and dry hooves can be a nightmare. 

I have given you tips on how to soften horse hooves before trimming to make the whole process easier. Use any of the above methods and ensure you do not over-trim to avoid causing injuries to the soft tissues. 

Just a quick reminder before wrapping up…

Be patient when trimming, as this will help you bond with your horse and make future trimming sessions seamless. 

Zunnun Ahmed

We are a group of horse enthusiasts. We want to provide information and tips to help others learn more about horses, how to care for them, and how to enjoy them.

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