Hoof quality is largely determined by internal factors like nutrition as well as hoof conformation, workload, shoeing, and exposure to wet and dry environments. Obviously, a horse that is fed well will have a head start on a healthy hoof. Supplements like Farrier’s Formula can definitely help with this. It may take several shoeing cycles for an improvement to be noticed since the new hoof has to grow out first. A horse with a well-balanced foot will have a suitable blood supply making sure the hoof will grow well and all of the nutrients you are feeding your horse are utilized. Horses that work hard on hard ground will place excess forces on the hoof wall. A good example would be 3-day eventers who have to put many miles on their horses, often on hard ground, in the summer.
These horses need to be shod well with steel shoes and well-placed nails to minimize hoof concussion. Low nails will shift and tend to break off the hoof wall leading to a weakened structure. Many horses have hoof cracks that are associated with weak hoof walls. These cracks are typically caused by extreme exposure to wet and dry conditions. Many of our show horses are bathed daily and then kept in dry stalls. The constant back and forth between wet and dry will weaken the external wall and lead to cracks. Many topical products certainly do not cause harm except when they are used too often as they can soften the wall and create an unhealthy moist environment which encourages weakness, cracks, and infection. We would like to see them used 2-3 times a week at most, with a focus on the coronary band. Realistically though they are a poor substitute for nutrition, good shoeing, hoof conformation, and a consistent environment that is neither too wet or too dry.