A poor quality hoof can be a result of one or multiple factors including poor nutrition, poor hygiene, lack of proper trimming or genetics.
Come summer many horse owners rushes to the shelves of their local tack store looking for products to protect their horses hooves from the advancing arid atmosphere, believing to be doing the right thing for their equines health.
Hooves absorb nutrients and moisture via the blood stream, therefore a well nourished and well hydrated horse will have healthy hooves. Even if they appear dry and have cracks on the outside, they are sure to be enjoying a healthy capsule on the inside. Those external cracks are more often than not superficial and causing no ill-effect to the hoof at all. They do not mean that the hoof is "dry".
The hoof wall is made up of a system of tightly packed horn tubules. These tubules are arranged vertically and parallel to each other and consist mainly of a protein called keratin. Keratin molecules are held together by hydrogen bonds. Hydrogen bonds are strongest when the tubules are dry. A hoof exposed to normal moisture levels, supplied from inside via the blood stream, is robust, strong and operates as the shock absorber it is designed to be when a horse moves. A hoof made wet via external humidity, be it water or topical confections, is weakened, the hydrogen bonds between the tubules break and the hoof becomes too flexible, reducing it´s structural integrity and shock absorbing efficiency.
Well experienced in how rock hard a healthy bare hoof can be, I am very aware of the ease of trimming a soft hoof by comparison. As such I understand why some will soak a hoof for 15 to 20 minutes, in water, before a trim. But it must surely be realised that this in itself is proof of how a wet hoof is compromised! No harm can be done by soaking a hoof to take the back ache out of trimming, but left in a soggy state you will be doing your equine friend no favors. (Our summers here mean they will be dry again in no time)