Why You Should Take Soft Hooves Seriously

Soft hooves are one of the common conditions even with all information behind them, why not utilise it?

That’s right; you are not alone. Soft hooves are one of the common problems that can happen to a horse’s foot, which directly relates to its environment. Soft hooves can also lead to other hoof problems; hence, we must always bear this in mind. The good news is that it is preventable.

Let’s look at the development of soft hooves, what it can lead to, how to treat and prevent it in the first place.

Table of Contents

Good Healthy Hoof On Dry Ground Closeup

What Is Soft Hoof

The first layer of the hoof is the hoof wall, a hard covering that protects the inner structure and provides strength to support the horse’s weight.

The hoof wall has a tubular structure and is porous. When the hoof is healthy, these tubules are firmly connected so that the hoof wall will stay strong. However, the hoof wall will absorb moisture like a sponge in a wet environment. When the horse is exposed to the wet condition for an extended time, the excess moisture will weaken and stretch the tissue that connects and hold these tubules together in the hoof wall, causing the hoof to start losing its structure and shape, that’s a soft hoof.

Causes Of Soft Hooves

The environment is the main factor for horses to develop soft hooves. Both wet and dry climates can affect the hoof, but the wet condition causes soft hooves. It can easily be overlooked, especially when the wet state doesn’t last long. The hoof can’t be dry and get hardened as quickly as the ground dries, so it might weaken over time.

Anatomy Of Hoof
Connemara Horse Stands In The Mud

Problems From Soft Hooves

So what if the hooves get a little damp?

Moisture expands a hoof wall, and when it dries out it contracts again, repeated contraction and expansion can weaken hooves, making them more prone to cracks and bruises,

DVM, a Mossouri-based veterinarian, in an article from theHORSE.


It is invaluable to be able to notice when your horse has soft hooves because it can lead to other more severe hoof-related issues:

Cracking and Chipping

The constant expansion and contraction of the hoof wall from excess moisture will weaken the hoof and cause cracks and bruises.

Hoof Abscess

The weakened hoof with stretched white line makes it easier for bacteria to penetrate the hoof capsule and causes hoof abscess.

Flat-Footed Hoof

Although not all horses have the same build, a healthy hoof usually has a concaved sole to protect the sensitive parts of the hoof. The hoof wall will expand and separate the white line area for a soft hoof. Once the horse applies pressure on its weight, the hoof will start to pancake and make the sole drop. As a result, the hoof is sensitive and painful to walk on, allows microbes to invade, and causes thrush and crumbling hoof horns.


Any discomfort of the hoof can make the horse lame. It is crucial to find out what triggers the lameness and treat it as soon as possible.

Loose Shoe

When the hoof is soft, keeping the shoe in place can be difficult. Some farriers may even glue the shoe if the hoof is too damaged.

5 Tips To Prevent Soft Hooves

All that being said, don’t worry too much about it. We can tackle the problems and ensure the hooves are in good condition.

1. A Clean Environment

Reinforce all the grounds your horse has access to, such as the stalls, paddocks, horse walkers etc. You can look after the hoof’s health by providing the horse with a mud-free area to stand on and keeping the hoof clean and dry.

Find out more about EquiGrids Ground Reinforcement with Free Drainage.


2. A Balanced Diet

Ensure the horse has enough nutrients daily to help with the overall hoof growth.


3. Maintain Good Circulation

A good blood flow to the tubules is essential because it helps the specialised cell that composes the hoof wall, giving the horse a resilient hoof. Regular activity and specific hoof trimming can also keep good circulation.


4. Utilise Hoof Hardeners and Hoof Conditioner

A healthy hoof needs to be maintained at a level of hydration. Some hooves might need external help before and after activities by applying a layer of hoof hardener to the hoof wall and sole.


5. Regular Farrier Appointments

Just like humans should have regular body checks, horses also need regular care to maintain good health.

Horse With Healthy Hooves On Grid Reinforced Ground

Check For Soft Hooves

How can you tell if your horse has soft hooves?

According to Darren Owen, a professional farrier mentioned by LifeData.

The first thing that is noticeable when I see a softened hoof is the enhanced aspect of distortion. When softened, the hoof wall is not as strong and can become difficult to manage during rigorous work. When the hoof capsule is weakened, we must worry about the development of cracks and the hoof’s balance. Right now, I am seeing a lot of clients that are being affected by hoof abscesses. Especially in areas where the hoof tissue has become soft. It is important that your farrier is properly cleaning out the seat of corn area, enhancing the vertical depth of the hoof, and paying attention to the sole. This will help ensure your horse does not become too sensitive.

If your horse has developed soft hooves or any other issues, visit your farrier or veterinarian for further action. The quicker it gets related treatment, the better it is.


Are you experiencing muddy ground or puddles that never go away? Your ground needs to be reinforced!