What’s the difference between hoof oils, hoof conditioners, and hoof polishes?   


I was casually picking up a few things (like 46 or so) at the tack store, and I noticed that you can buy about 938 different types of liquids, pastes, and sparkle goops for your horse’s hooves.  How on earth do you pick one?  What it boils down to is not the name, but the ingredients.  Most hoof “goops”, for lack of a better term, have some ingredients listed.  Also keep in mind that the jury is still out on a lot of hoof products in terms of what they claim they do and what they actually do.  Also remember that your horse’s hooves are a function of a lot of different factors.


  • Genetics
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Farrier care
  • Climate
  • Footing - in the stall, in the ring, on the trail, in the field. 
  • Injuries and illnesses. 


You can store your hoof potions and lotions in mushroom containers from the grocery store.  #barnhack


So what types of ingredients can you find and what can they do? Hoof oil, hoof dressing, hoof polishes, and hoof conditioners are basically made from one of the following categories: 


  • Drying agents - they do just as they claim - dry the hoof.  Acetone and alcohol are common ingredients. And they will also likely take off your fingernail polish.  
  • Lotion type ingredients include stearate, lanolin, and glycerins.  These have the consistency of a hand lotion.  
  • Oil based ingredients repel/trap water.  Pine tar, petroleum, neatsfoot oil are all examples.  


And basically this means what?  Well, a study done at Texas A & M University many moons ago regarding healthy hooves, unhealthy hooves, and various products was completed.  Some really interesting results.  Basically, we start with the healthy hoof.  The hoof wall, or horn, is made of tubules that are surrounded by intertubular horn. This combo can’t absorb moisture.  The study found that hoof products have little influence on the healthy hoof.  The unhealthy hoof, however, can be further damaged by hoof products.  


What does this mean for your horse’s hooves? 


For the healthy hoof - it means carry on!  Do what you are doing! Use hoof oils/conditioners/polishes/dressings because you like them.  I use an oil based dressing before a bath, so that the large volume of water doesn’t get into any nail holes.  I also LOVE the sheen created for the show ring and even everyday rides.  It’s the icing on the cake when you are done grooming!


For the unhealthy or questionable hoof - it means talk to the Professionals!  Involve your Farrier and your Veterinarian.  Remember that healthy hooves start with nutrition, and are helped with clean living conditions and lots of movement.  Using the proper type of hoof dressing may also help - so knowing the ingredients is a great place to start.  You may also need a medication, which might be contained in some hoof dressings.  Lots to explore and work with.  

What’s your take on hoof oils/conditioners/dressings?