Horse Hoof Polish and Dressing: To Use or Not to Use?

Horse hoof polish and dressing are the source of some controversy. They’re definitely something you’ll come across if you start showing your horse.

Alternatively, you might just want to paint your horse’s hooves purple so that they match your nails next time you ride (I mean why not right?).

But in all seriousness, I just wanted to go over what I think about them and when I would and wouldn’t use them. I know that I’ve learned some interesting stuff and I think that if you read this, you might be surprised.

Table of Contents

    Polish vs. Dressing: What’s the Difference?

    If you’re new to the subject you might be wondering what’s the difference between polish and dressing anyways. You might even be wondering if dressing is some weird wrap that you can put on the horse’s hoof.

    Horse Hoof Dressing

    The truth is hoof dressing is essentially an oily or creamy product that many people use on their horse’s hooves. It is meant to improve hoof health and reduce the risk or even treat cracking, the associated dryness and eventual lameness.

    Dressing can either be bought in stores, online or made at home.

    You can check out Youtube for plenty of Do-It-Yourself formulas on how to make at home dressing solutions. But before you do! Keep reading for a bit longer because you may change your mind.

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    Horse Hoof Polish

    On the other hand, hoof polish is a lot like nail polish. It’s meant to give your horse’s hoof a finishing touch that’s purely aesthetic. It’s not meant to absorb into the hoof or have any beneficial qualities besides simply looking pretty.

    During shows, black polish will generally be used to make the hooves shiny and stand out. Sometimes you can also buy an additional spray that coats the base polish and adds even more shine.

    Should I use Dressing for Regular Hoof Maintenance?

    According to research published on TheHorse.Com, hoof dressings can actually have a negative effect on hooves, particularly those that are already damaged.

    Certain ingredients like formalin, tar-based formulas and some solvents can actually cause cracking, as opposed to repairing it. And more shocking is that they do greater damage to poorer-quality hooves.

    Essentially you’re making the problem worse – which is not what you want.

    Some products do increase the moisture content in your horse’s hoof, as they claim. But that’s not always a good thing. Increased moisture within the hoof over a prolonged period can also cause damage to the hoof wall.

    Instead of using dressings, you can maintain the health of your horse’s hooves by regularly picking them as part of the grooming process.

    Horse Hoof Polish

    You should also have them seen by a farrier frequently, for hoof trimming and to shoe them. Regularly mucking out their stables will also help, as mud and waste can damage the hoof structure.

    How Should I Prepare for a Show with Horse Hoof Polish?

    Now, bear in mind that horse hoof polish is different to dressing. It’s a lot more like a lacquer, as it doesn’t penetrate the horse’s hoof so deeply.

    With that settled, we can talk about the hoof polish you could be using to show your horse.

    I know I joked about using purple polish above. But the most common polish colours are actually clear and black – and they’re not intended to be too showy.

    Generally in English competitions like show jumping, hunter and dressage, clear polish is generally favoured. Meanwhile for Western, especially Western pleasure, you’ll want black hoof polish. Do note though that some competitions or even breeds ban the wearing of polish that alters the natural hoof colour. So watch out for that!

    I actually have a whole post on horse hoof polish that you can check out, including an instructional video on how to apply it. So head on over there!

    Now for the fun stuff…

    But just because competitions call for clear and black polish doesn’t mean that you can’t break out and do something fun. And to me, nothing is more fun than glitter!

    I love glittery nail polish myself. And what could be cuter than giving my horse glittery hooves to match me?

    That’s where “Twinkle Toes” horse hoof polish with GLITTER comes in.

    Horse Hoof Polish and Dressing: To Use or Not to Use? 5

    I think my favourite is this gold, but you can get it in a whole range of colours. So what’s stopping you? It could be a great Christmas present, either for you or for your horse!

    Just Like For Your Nails, What You Eat is #1

    Now, if you’re still a little worried about the health of your horse’s hooves, I do have one more suggestion for you.

    In addition to your normal grooming, mucking and farrier work, you can also help treat any hoof problems through your horse’s diet.

    Horse Hoof Polish and Dressing: To Use or Not to Use? 7

    Horse hoof health is determined by a number of key nutrients: proteins, fats, zinc, calcium, phosphorous, vitamin e and selenium. Biotin, a member of the vitamin b family, has also been shown to have positive effects on hoof health.

    Generally, I would recommend trying Health-E Vitamin E or an Omega-3 boosting fatty acid supplement to start with. These will also have great benefits for your horse’s joints and coat!

    More generally, you can check out our horse healthcare and supplements page for more information about how you can best serve your horse’s health.

    If you have any remaining questions about horse hoof polish and health, let me know in the comments below.

    Happy riding!


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