Summer problems: Dry, brittle hooves

  • Vickie Weston competes her nine-year-old 16.3hh Irish Draught/Thoroughbred, Winston, in pre-novice eventing and affiliated dressage. He suffers from dry, brittle hooves and bruised soles when the ground gets hard in the summer.


    “After Winston’s winter break, I do a lot of roadwork to build up his fitness. I never trot on the roads, but his feet still crack and split due to the concussion.

    “Trying to keep shoes on during the summer is always a problem. In the winter Winston is shod every six weeks, but in summer it can be anything from three to five weeks. He has shallow feet, so once the ground goes hard his soles can become bruised and sore, which makes him go lame.”

    Advice given

    “My farrier, Joe Bryan, has been shoeing my horses for 11 years. He’s always suggesting new and better ways to improve Winston’s feet, and he suggested using silicone instead of leather pads.

    “The pads comes right up to the edge of the shoe — the hoof is completely flat to the floor. Winston seems really happy in them. The silicone is thicker than the leather pads and protects his feet totally from stones or rough ground.”

    What she tried

    “Winston has worn leather pads throughout the summer between his sole and shoe. This enables him to compete over hard ground without bruising his feet.

    “My farrier has also advised me to paint on eucalyptus oil every other day; I have this imported from Japan. I also use NAF Hoof Moist, Kevin Bacon Hoof Dressing and Keratex. I definitely think the Keratex helps Winston’s shoes stay on for longer, and the hoof dressings keep his feet far more elastic and protect his hooves from the British weather.

    “He gets a feed balancer containing biotin and is also fed Farriers Choice supplement.

    “Winston’s turned out in a small paddock during the day and in a bigger field at night during the summer to keep his weight down. Because he’s a relatively good doer, I have to keep an eye on his weight. He’s ridden six days a week for up to one and a half hours’ a day, which puts demands on his feet.”

    Progress report

    “We competed in an open pre novice last weekend and finished fourth, with the best dressage score in my section. It’s now three weeks since he was shod and his feet look brilliant. They haven’t cracked anywhere near as badly as usual, and still look like he was only shod last week.

    “Winston is working really well with the pads. There really isn’t much difference on a surface, but once on the grass or roads he bowls along as if he is on air. He is also being far more extravagant in his jumping.

    “The only down side is that he will slip when cornering on grass if he doesn’t have studs in, such as when I’m doing his canter work, but he hasn’t slipped on the roads. He didn’t slip during any of the three phases at the event and produced his best performances during the dressage and cross-country.

    “We are due to compete again a week on Saturday and I’m not worried about his feet at all. Normally in week three his feet are splitting and becoming more brittle, but not this time. It may just be coincidence but since wearing the pads his front legs are nowhere near as filled after hard work as they used to be.

    “Although the silicone is very expensive, I believe it is worth it as there are many benefits. I don’t have to worry about work making his feet sore or him pulling off a shoe. I have a much happier horse, who is bouncing across firm ground. I’m really thrilled with how they are working. ”

  • Keep in touch with Vickie and Winston’s exploits in the HHO forum >>
  • This feature formed part of Horse & Hound’s summer horse care special, which also covered readers’ experiences of sunburn, colic and headshaking

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