horses hooves chipping

Chipping Horse Hooves – Signs, Prevention, and Effective Care Products

by | Jul 11, 2023 | Equine Health, Equine Hoof Care

Hoof chipping in horses is a nagging issue often stemming from an imbalance in the natural integrity of the hoof structure. Chipping or cracking along the hoof wall indicates that the hoof is losing its strength and suppleness, which can lead to more severe issues if left untreated.

What is Hoof Chipping?

In simple terms, hoof chipping refers to the breaking off of small or large pieces from a horse’s hoof wall. This can occur along the outer edge or surface of the hoof, sometimes extending to the deeper layers. The chips can vary in size and frequency, resulting in an uneven, ragged hoof surface. Persistent hoof chipping is a warning sign that there’s a hitch in your horse’s hoof health.

Causes of Hoof Chipping

The primary culprits behind hoof chipping are usually improper trimming or shoeing, poor nutrition, or an imbalance in moisture. When the hoof trimming routine isn’t performed correctly or isn’t frequent enough, the hoof wall can grow unevenly or become overgrown, leading to chips. Similarly, inadequate nutrition, particularly lacking in biotin and essential amino acids, can lead to brittle, weak hooves prone to chipping.

Additionally, an unstable moisture balance can also wreak havoc on hooves. Too much moisture may cause the hoof to become soft and peel away easily, whereas too little moisture can cause the hoof to become dry and brittle, leading to chipping.

Signs of Hoof Chipping

Visible signs of hoof chipping include cracks, flakes, or chunks missing from the hoof wall. You may also observe an uneven surface and ragged edges. The hoof may seem brittle or unusually soft to the touch. It’s essential to recognize that hooves with minor superficial chips can still be healthy, but recurring or deep chips necessitate attention.

Prevention and Treatment

To prevent hoof chipping, effective hoof care routines are key. Regular, professional trimming helps maintain a balanced and healthy hoof shape, preventing overgrowth and imbalance. A good example of a product to assist with this is the Diamond Farrier DC0B Horseshoe, designed to offer a balanced fit, reducing the risk of chipping.

Ensuring your horse receives a nutritionally balanced diet is another crucial preventative measure. A diet rich in biotin, amino acids, and essential vitamins and minerals will improve hoof strength and resilience. For additional support, you may consider a hoof supplement such as Farnam Horseshoer’s Secret Extra Strength, providing necessary nutrients to help prevent cracks and chips.

Maintaining an optimal moisture balance is also critical. Hooves should not be too dry nor too wet. Use a hoof moisturizer like Horse Health Shur Hoof to prevent drying and promote elasticity. In contrast, to combat excessive moisture, use a sealant like Keratex Hoof Hardener that strengthens the hoof wall and prevents softening.

If you see persistent or worsening hoof chips despite these efforts, consider consulting with your vet or a professional farrier, as it may indicate more serious underlying conditions. Remember, no product can replace expert advice when it comes to your horse’s hoof health.

Related: Horse Hoof Care: Best Technique

Products to Consider

One beneficial element of horse hoof care that horse owners often overlook is hoof oils or conditioners. These products not only enhance the hoof’s natural shine, but also serve to replenish lost moisture, reinforcing the flexibility of the hoof. Fiebing’s Improved Hoof Dressing is an excellent product to consider, nourishing and conditioning the hooves, making them less prone to chipping.

But what if you’re dealing with hooves that are already cracked and chipped? Here, products designed for hoof repair can come into play. For instance, Hawthorne Products Sole Pack Hoof Packing relieves dry, hard, sore hooves, while maintaining the pliability of the hoof wall, sole, and frog. Additionally, EquiFit Pack-N-Stick Hoof Tape can help fill in minor cracks and chips, preventing further damage until the hoof naturally grows out.

To bolster hoof growth and resilience, providing a biotin-enriched feed supplement is recommended. Farrier’s Formula Double Strength Pelleted Nutritional Supplement is an excellent choice. It offers a potent mix of nutrients, including biotin, to support rapid, healthy hoof growth and strength, minimizing the occurrence of chipping.

Related: Best Hoof Supplements for Horses

Professional Consultation

If your horse’s hooves continue to chip despite your best efforts, seeking professional help is a must. A farrier can guide you in setting up a more effective hoof maintenance regime, and a vet can rule out any underlying health issues, such as laminitis or hoof rot, contributing to the problem.


Regular and precise hoof care, balanced nutrition, maintaining optimal moisture levels, and using high-quality care products are paramount in preventing hoof chipping. Regular hoof inspections and prompt action at the first sign of chipping can help you keep ahead of any major problems. But always remember, when in doubt, do not hesitate to seek professional advice.

While no product can entirely replace a comprehensive hoof care routine and professional expertise, they certainly can be valuable additions to your toolbox. They can offer additional support in maintaining hoof health, mitigating the risk of hoof chipping, and ensuring your equine friend stays in top shape.

In the end, prevention is always better than cure. And in the case of your horse’s hooves, diligent prevention could mean the difference between a smooth gallop and a hobble. So, keep a vigilant eye, follow good hoof care practices, and make smart use of the right products to keep your horse’s hooves chip-free and healthy.

About The Author

<a href="" target="_self">Issabella Mitchel</a>

Issabella Mitchel

Isabella is a remarkable equestrian and racehorse trainer, hailing from the horse capital of the world, Kentucky. Growing up in the heart of bluegrass country, she developed a deep affinity for horses from an early age.

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