As with hooves, a horse recovering from a muscle injury may be protective of that particular area, favoring a different leg or unusual posture. This is the mental resistance I refer to. And just like muscle memory it must be considered when transitioning, but also kept in perspective. Cultivating tough hooves is done with conditioning. Conditioning comes about via correct preparation of the hoof capsule. Strengthening the structures of the hoof capsule will depend on your starting point, the current condition of the hoof, the resources available to you, the time you are prepared to invest and what your expectations are.
Know the limits
This is where your own mental resistance is also tested. Many owners will get tough and jog down the being cruel to be kind track, whilst others can be overly precautious, not really doing their equine any favors, by prolonging unnecessarily their transition.
Movement is absolutely the key to strengthening, but it must be within the limits of the hooves current capabilities. This is where you must remember that the mental resistance may be more yours than the horses! Tacking up and heading off out for a 20km trek is only good for them if the preparation has been done, building up to that point. Insisting the horse goes up and down the trail when the capsules are not yet tough enough to do so only leaves you with a sore horse. If you have a hoof sound on soft going and all you want is for it to be sound and comfortable on pebbles, then walking them in-hand on pebbles for minutes, building up the time period, is just fine and where you want to start.
To cultivate the hoof your horse needs (and you want!) you need to ask yourself and your hoof care professional a number of questions first. And let me state right here, right now, the only stupid question is the one you don´t ask. It is far better to be thought of as stupid than to be stupid!
What is the current condition of the hoof capsule? How strong or weak are the individual structures?
What other health or injury issues may affect the transition? Does anything specific need to be considered or changed in order to stimulate correct repair or regeneration? What exercises will help this?
Can you organise a regular routine to commit and consistently perform the necessary exercise? What support do you have, professional, friend or otherwise? This is important - so many naysayers.
How will you monitor the changes so you know what is improving, or what is deteriorating?
Once you have answers to all your questions you can then set your program of transition. Remember, we are talking about helping to create tough, functioning hooves. We are not talking about desensitising. If the hooves are sensitive then diet and/or pathologies must be considered and assessed. We are talking of creating strong hoof capsules from weak. Strong structures from unused or undeveloped ones. Have your professional help lay out the plan, and keep asking questions. As the hoof develops new ones will arise.