Tender Broken Feet/Formaldehyde

Dressage Today | 2010

Q. My horses hoof's are really soft and seem to always be tender and breaking off. Is there something I can do to strenghten them? I was told to put formaldhyde but that seems odd to me. Thanks Lisa O.

A. Let me first caution you about formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen and has been linked to nasal and lung cancer, and with possible links to brain cancer and leukemia. Short-term exposure to formaldehyde can be fatal. Long-term exposure to low levels of formaldehyde may cause respiratory difficulty, eczema, and sensitization. I would strongly advise that you keep yourself and your horse as far away from formaldehyde as possible.

It appears that you have several things going on with your horse's feet. Soft horn is usually the result of excessive moisture in the horse's living conditions. You should avoid putting your horse in mud or wet pastures. A clean box stall, with fresh shavings will do a lot to dry out your horse's feet. Remember that urine and feces carry moisture as well. Keep the stall picked up. The regular renewal of fresh shavings will help dry your horses feet.

I assume that your horse is barefoot since his feet are "breaking off." The simple solution is to put shoes on him. A competent farrier can shoe your horse with lightweight shoes and thin nails.

Your horse's hooves grow approximately 1/4" to 3/8" a month, so don 't expect immediate results from the shoeing. If the broken and cracked horn is a couple of inches up the hoof you won't see solid hoof on the ground surface for six to eight months.

Feed supplements, if the work, will only improve the quality of the new horn that is being produced at the coronary band. It will take 14 to 16 months before you will see the results at the ground surface. Since the horn is "dead", no vascular or nerve supply hoof dressing cannot "improve" the strength since the horn as no way of "improving" it's integrity.

If you want to have a functional riding horse this summer you need to immediately tend to your horse's feet today. Too many horse owners wait until the weather is good before contacting their farrier. Remember that the horn takes three to four months to grow one inch.

Your horse having tender feet should be a major concern. A horse with normal feet should not exhibit any soreness or tenderness. The soreness means that the horse's coffin bone is experiencing some type of trauma. The longer your horse goes without treatment the more irreversible damage that will be done to the coffin bone.

The horse's coffin bone is suspended within the hoof capsule surrounded by sensitive lamanie. The sensitive lamanie contains blood vessels and nerves.

The hoof wall supports the horse's weight. When the wall becomes weak and broken the horse's weight will then supported by the sole. The sole is not designed to bear weight. The bone column pushes down and traps the sensitive lamanie between the ground and bone, creating pain and disruption of the blood supply to the coffin bone.

In addition the coffin bone is traumatized by the concussion. Continual insults and trauma to the coffin bone creates a condition called pedal osteitis. The coffin bone starts to deteriorate and your horse will have a permanent lameness. Pedal osteitis cannot be reversed.

Since your horse is demonstrating sensitivity to his feet I would advise you to get a veterinarian workup that would include x-rays of the coffin bone. Shoes and pads will probably be required to protect the coffin bone.