Hoof growth – how a horse’s hoof grows


Your horse’s entire world rests on his hooves. It’s important to understand how a horse’s hoof grows, what factors are involved in hoof growth, and how we can help the horse’s hoof.


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Factors that play a role in hoof growth


  • The season. Hooves tend to grow a bit faster in the warmer months.


  • Moisture. Dry climates, like deserts, typically slow hoof growth down.


  • Illness or fever. Sickness will slow growth, and often leave a ring around the hoof.


  • Injury. The coronary band, as well as other hoof structures, may slow or deform growth when injured.


The role of nutrition in horse hoof growth


  • Nutrition. Better nutrition equals better hoof growth. This is where we get to learn oodles of stuff from Dr. Clair. Nutrients that play a key role in hoof development are methionine, zinc, copper, biotin, and fatty acids. Methionine is an essential amino acid that contains sulfur. Essential fatty acids are things that your horse can’t make himself – they must come from the diet.


  • The keratin-associated proteins found in the hoof wall require adequate sulfur. As other amino acids are also necessary for hoof health, it is best to ensure that the entire amino acid balance in the diet is optimal rather than supplementing individual amino acids.


  • Copper and zinc are trace minerals that are often lacking in forages. Even if supplemented, if the levels in the diet are poorly balanced their utilization may be reduced, and so overall balance is important. Copper is necessary for synthesizing elastic connective tissue and forming the disulfide bonds in keratin. Zinc ensures the proper enzyme function of several metabolic pathways associated with keratin formation.


  • Fatty acids help with the pliability of the resulting hoof and biotin is essential for cementing fats and proteins together resulting in a hardening of the cells. Phew – this is an excellent example of why a properly balanced diet is vital – you can’t just supplement willy-nilly!


horse supplement in tub with desiccant pack

Choose your supplements wisely!


Your horse needs to move for optimal hoof health


  • Movement. Hooves that move around in the pasture, turnouts, paddocks, and regular exercise will grow better.


  • Loading of the hoof. Uneven loading of the hoof can slow the growth, sometimes just in that area. Your Farrier can help you read the hoof to notice patterns of uneven loading.


  • Biomechanics. How the horse moves can influence hoof growth. This is the big picture of how your horse moves – from spine to shoulders and stifles then down to the hoof.


  • Soundness. This relates to loading and biomechanics and often includes injuries to the hoof and/or soft tissues of the leg.


  • Don’t forget about genetics – it’s what makes your horse “special” and one of a kind.


barefoot hoof with contracted heels and dry sole


Horse hooves grow about 1 cm, give or take, per month. It’s a long process!


  • Here’s something else to consider. The vast majority of horses grow asymmetrically. That means their hoof maybe grows more toe than the heel, maybe more on the inside than the outside, or maybe more on the outside than the inside.


Consider the trimming and shoeing timeline


  • This is why your farrier must maintain a regular schedule, even if your horse is desperate to grow some hoof, for whatever reason. Perhaps, if your horse lives in South Dakota, and it’s winter, and he grows symmetrically, you might be able to go one week longer between visits.


  • Otherwise, keep your farrier on a schedule that works for your horse. Some horses are four weeks, some are eight, it will depend. Work with your team to determine the best schedule!


Regular maintenance is beneficial so that you are not overcorrecting an extreme situation, which requires a significant adjustment in terms of your horse “getting used” to his new hooves after a trim.


  • By routine and frequent trimmings and shoeings on a tight schedule, you create a uniform shoeing cycle with no extremes, which helps your horse grow more hoof correctly. Maintain the hoof without dealing with extremes (too long here, too short there) and the hoof will be happy, comfortable, and grow well.


  • A specific example of this would be a horse that grows a lot of toe, and while you think this may be great, the heel takes the brunt of this as the toe grows out, and oftentimes can prevent the heel from growing at all. Staying on top of this with regular hoof care and trimming prevents this situation, and your horse will thank you for it!



Proper (and consistent) hoof care will only help your horse.



The key to how a horse’s hoof grows is blood flow, and the keys to blood flow are movement, diet, and overall health.




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02/23/2024 04:13 am GMT
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Cavallo Simple Hoof Boot for Horses, Size 3, Black

This style is great to protect the hoof, but is not soft and squishy for laminitis cases.

02/22/2024 06:38 am GMT
EasyCare Glove Hoof Boot

These boots are great for protecting barefoot horses.

02/22/2024 08:32 am GMT
Silver Bells - Sox For Horses

For hoof protection when equine pastern dermatitis is a risk.

$12.80 ($3.20 / Fl Oz)
02/22/2024 01:27 pm GMT

Thank you!