Old Nail Holes: An Open Door to Hoof Problems

Nail holes in hoof

The farrier comes, does their job, and everything is good. Hooves are trimmed, new shoes are set, and we don’t need to consider hoof care again for another 6 weeks. Right?

Unfortunately, a common mindset is “Hoof care is the responsibility of the farrier, and the farrier alone.” Many horse owners don’t consider the impact that nutrition, regular maintenance and the environment has on the hoof. Proper hoof care must be a daily objective by the horse owner. Best practices to help horse owners achieve and preserve quality hooves include:

  1. Feeding for hoof health
  2. Examining for signs of unhealthy hooves
  3. Regularly cleaning the hooves
  4. Treating/preventing bacterial invasions
  5. Keeping hooves conditioned in wet/dry periods

Even the smallest overlooked detail can be the difference between healthy and unhealthy hooves. For example, the small nail holes left behind after changing a shoe may not seem like a big deal, but they are an open door for bacterial infections and unwanted debris. In fact, old nail holes left unprotected can lead to the development of:

  • Hoof Wall Separations
  • White Line Disease
  • Hoof Abscesses
  • Crumbling and Shelly Hoof Walls
  • Lameness

Old Nail Holes and The Farrier

Farriers are aware of the hoof problems that old nail holes, hoof cracks and other hoof defects can create. You may see your farrier pack old nail holes with a hoof clay or apply a hoof topical. This is a great practice to provide protection from invading microbes while the old nail holes and defects grow out. Unfortunately, these measures will not last and the process will need to be repeated regularly. Otherwise, the nail holes will be susceptible to microbial invasions once the initial applications have worn off. Waiting until the next farrier appointment is too long between applications. This is especially true to horses who are commonly exposed to:

  • Wet and muddy environments
  • Unclean paddocks or stalls
  • Sandy or rocky terrain

Protecting Old Nail Holes

Talking to your farrier is a great starting point in maintaining hoof quality and protecting your horse from hoof problems. Your farrier can advise you on how to properly clean the hoof and recommend products to help address any issues. Below are a few helpful tips to also consider:

Life Data Hoof Clay Under Shoes
  1. Properly Clean the Hoof Daily
    • Old nail holes easily become packed with mud, grime, feces, and other unwanted debris. Picking and cleaning the hoof not only clears the unwanted debris but opens those areas of the hoof to oxygen. A hoof packed with debris is unable to “breathe.” The hoof eating microbial invasions that cause conditions like crumbling horn and White Line Disease thrive in low oxygen environments. Old nail holes provide an ideal environment for this to occur.
  2. Regularly Pack Old Nail Holes with Life Data® Hoof Clay®
    • Life Data® Hoof Clay® is a non-caustic anti-microbial clay that can be used to pack into old nail holes. This natural porous clay allows the continued flow of oxygen into the hoof wall while help preventing other debris from penetrating into the nail holes. The anti-microbial properties of Life Data® Hoof Clay® defend against the microbes that lead to  Thrush and White Line Disease.  Life Data® Hoof Clay is also non-caustic, so it is safe to apply with your own hands and will not burn or damage healthy hoof tissue.
      • For extra protection utilize Farrier’s Finish® following application of Life Data® Hoof Clay®.
      • Before the shoe is nailed on, ask your farrier to apply Life Data® Hoof Clay® over the white line area.
  3. Feed for Hoof Health
    • Your horse’s diet plays an important role in hoof quality and development. Utilizing a feeding program that is focused on hoof health will help develop a hoof that is more resilient to microbial invasions and other hoof related problems. Adding Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength, a hoof and coat supplement, will also promote quality hoof growth and expedite the time for old nail holes to grow out.
  4. Maintain Clean Environments
    • Unclean stalls, paddocks, and wet muddy pastures are ideal areas to predispose your horse to “hoof eating” microbial invasions. It is important to limit your horse’s exposure to these environments as much as possible. Remember, old nail holes act like a doorway for these microbial invasions. Exposing your horse to these conditions only increases the likelihood of developing a microbial invasion. If you know your horse will be exposed to these conditions, utilizing Farrier’s Finish® will help. Farrier’s Finish® will help maintain moisture balance, bind ammonia in excrement, and defend against microbial invasions. It is also non-caustic and will not hurt sensitive hoof tissue.

Old nail holes may not seem like a serious issue, but it’s a perfect example of the importance of constant hoof care diligence.  The period between farrier visits is a large enough window that real and serious hoof problems can occur. It is the horse owner’s responsibility to perform regular hoof maintenance. Even small tasks, such as protecting a wall crack or old nail hole, can influence hoof quality.