Nature really is a fierce adversary. The after effects of horses’ hooves standing in water for long periods is causing much anxiety among horse owners, so we need to know how to deal with it.

To understand try this, go get the dry sponge on your sink and wet it and of course it expands. The hoof wall is made of hair fibres, and while the density of the hoof wall is its strength under normal conditions, when it is subjected to excessive water without relief it swells then becomes soft and warps in all directions, just like the sponge.

It begins to bend about a third of the way up from the bottom; this is flaring outwards. Separation occurs from the laminae (hoof wall separation) and then to add to the problem, the sole also expands in the wet conditions and bulges downwards.

The horse becomes lame from walking on the sole, then abscesses develop under the sole or at the hoof wall separation area and it is not a happy situation.

The first move, if circumstances permit, is to get the horses hooves out of the water or out of the wet ground as soon as possible. The second is to trim the excess sole and then trim the flares back to re-establish strength in the lower hoof wall, where delamination of the outer hoof wall has occurred.

Nailing on shoes may be difficult unless a long slim nail is used to place the clinches higher into solid hoof wall.

You will need to be patient with Mother Nature – wait a while, it will all pass when she is ready.


Now that the ground is no longer water logged the sun has hard baked the ground and horses are in trouble again.

Overly wet hooves have flared out in all directions and the soles have dropped, or swelled down, so now the horses are walking on hard ground with, in many cases, full sole/ground contact; this causes sole abscesses, so the soles need to be trimmed back to be as concave as you can get them, along with controlling any flares in the hoof wall.

If an abscess is present in the sole DO NOT go and carve a big hole in the sole to relieve it as this causes a massive after care problem with infection. It is preferable to use a poultice to draw out any infection or inflammation, and to leave the sole unpunctured.

Fitting an underpad may be necessary at a later stage if the horse is in work.