Over the hot, dry summer months it is important to keep your horse’s hooves hydrated so they function correctly and you don’t have any issues. This is how I do it.
This information does not and should not replace advice given by your farrier, trimmer or vet.
A dry, rigid hoof doesn’t have the proper hoof mechanism therefore doesn’t function properly. What is hoof mechanism? Your horse’s hooves are designed to be mini shock absorbers. When the hoof lands on the ground, it expands and absorbs the shock preventing most of it from travelling up the leg. This mechanism also pumps blood around the hoof and legs. This is a very, very basic explanation of hoof mechanism. Plenty more in-depth information available by using the mighty Google. If the hoof doesn’t expand and contract like it should, damage can be caused to the legs and compromised blood flow can lead to unhealthy hooves. It is important to keep the hoof functioning as it should.
By far the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to keep your horse’s hooves hydrated is water. Why not oil, dressings and potions? A lot of these are oil based which PREVENT moisture from being absorbed by the hoof and the hoof will repel any moisture it comes in contact with. Maybe useful in the winter?
You will see people recommend overflowing the trough so you horse gets wet feet when they go to drink. Please don’t. This is a complete waste of resources, power and water, and is not effective as far as providing enough moisture for long enough to be beneficial to your horse’s hooves. I’m guessing this info comes from what wild horses do? i.e., standing in bodies of water everyday when they go to drink. The difference is wild horses will normally travel to their water source once a day and spend some time there given they are only going once a day. I don’t know about your horse but mine spends about 30 seconds at the trough having a drink then buggers off again.
Ideally your horse’s hooves should be soaked until the periople, the bit below the coronet, turns white. This normally takes about 15 – 20 minutes depending on how much moisture the hoof does or doesn’t already have. This needs to be done once or twice a day in water that is deep enough to cover the coronet.
There are a few ways to achieve this. The most important thing is it needs to be easy or it just doesn’t get done. Horses are a shit ton of work as it is, who wants to add more work?!
One is soaking boots. These involve a bit of faffing and aren’t my preferred option but are effective and good if you don’t have the space or resources to use a hoof bath and are a most excellent option for when you're not at home.
By far the easiest way is a hoof bath. You can buy these, not cheap but they are easy, hard wearing, and portable. You can very easily and cheaply make your own. To do this, you need a cheap tarp from The Warehouse or the like, and 4 posts or similar to make the front, back and sides. Put the posts down to make a square then tuck the tarp around and under the posts, fill with water, job tidy!
My horses get their feet soaked in their hoof baths when they have their breakfast and dinner.