Winter Weather Can Mean Wet, Soft Hooves


Hoof pick
If your horse cannot avoid living in damp footing during the wintertime, he may be prone to thrush and abscesses in his feet. The thrush is due to the constant moisture combined with frequent contact with manure. Abscesses result because the sole of the hoof becomes soft thanks to the exposure to moisture. A step on a sharp stone or a tiny piece of gravel that works its way into a small crack in the sole or hoof wall can result in a painful abscess.

To help prevent these problems, try to keep your horse’s living quarters as dry as possible. Your horse should, at the very least, have a dry shelter where he can seek refuge. Wood shavings and other products on the market help to soak up rain water; straw has far less absorption qualities.

Make sure you clean out your horse’s feet daily. If necessary, after using the hoofpick, use a stiff body brush to sweep away any remaining debris. Next, add a hoof hardener to the soles, avoiding the frog. Thrush remedies, however, can be applied to the frog, particularly to the cleft of the frog and the comasure areas (valleys on either side of the frog) where thrush likes to reside. If you have any questions regarding your horse’s hoof care during the wet winter weather, be sure to consult with your farrier and your veterinarian.

Further Reading
Mud-Related Health Problems

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Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.


  1. One of my horses picked up thrush in one hoof, and it was the driest summer on record. I do think that this time it came from the farrier tools.


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