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Senior Horses and Toxins Do NOT Mix!

Avoid Using WD-40, Motor Oil, and Other Toxic Substances

by Gail M. Staines, Ph.D.

April 2, 2021

Too often us horse people rely on folklore remedies or old Cowboy myths simply because someone else said it was a good idea. Here is one myth that must cease to exist: DO NOT USE MOTOR OIL, WD-40, OR RELATED PRODUCTS WITH YOUR HORSES!! Petroleum products such as crude oil, gasoline, motor oil, pine tar, turpentine, and kerosene may cause horses illness and sometimes death if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin. (Osweiler, 2013)

Wrong Products Used for Decades

So, how have these toxic products been used with horses?

Common uses include:

  • · To make hooves look shiny for horse shows

  • · To prevent ice from balling up in horses’ hooves

  • · To keep dust down in an arena

  • · To treat thrush

  • · To untangle manes and tails

  • · As a treatment for sweet itch

  • · As an anti-chew, anti-crib agent on wood stalls and fencing

Healthier Options

Fortunately, there are many healthier options to use with your horse that will yield far better results than relying on substances that can cause damage to your equine. Below are some product suggestions. (Note: I am not recommending these products, nor do I receive any financial benefit from mentioning these products in my post. These products are provided for informational purposes only.)

The outside of a horse’s hoof is essentially dead tissue that protects the inner structures of the hoof. However, the coronet band and the underlying portion of the hoof can and does absorb various elements, including toxic substances. So, whether you a painting on a toxic product to make your horse’s hooves look shiny, to keep ice off them, attempting to clear-up a case of thrush, or to keep dust down in an arena – the horse is inevitably going to absorb these harmful elements into its’ system.


  • · select a hoof dressing that does not dry out the hoof, such as Mane ‘n Tail Hoofmaker

  • · use snow pads or a generic non-stick cooking spray to prevent ice build-up

  • · watering your arena more often and/or adding synthetic footing will help keep arena dust to a minimum

  • · use an anti-thrush product to treat thrush

To untangle manes and tails, fill a spray bottle with one-half cup of conditioner to water and shake vigorously or use a made-for-horse product such as Mane-n-Tail Detangler.

Sweet itch is an allergic reaction to insects that bite, so diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian is essential.

And, the best solution for addressing chewing and cribbing is to turn out your horse as much as possible! Chewing and cribbing are unwanted behaviors that horses engage in because of stressful environments. Horses evolved to live outside, moving and grazing. This is impossible if your horse is kept in a stall most of the time. It is also near impossible to stop a horse from chewing and cribbing – it is like an addiction that begins typically when a horse is weaned unnaturally. The best solution is lots of outdoor time so that the horse can just be a horse.

Making Our Horses’ Lives Better

As we learn more about the horse – how it metabolizes various natural and man-made products and how toxic products can harm the horse, causing illness and sometimes death – it is up to us to make changes so that our horses, especially our senior horses, live longer, more active lives.

Gail Staines founded The Senior Horse to share quality information about horses 19+ years of age and up. Updates on research about older equines, evidenced-based advice, finding a senior horse, and much more can be found on She can be contacted via email at


Freckleton, M. & Barakat, C. (2019). 4 Easy Ways to Ice-Proof Your Horse’s Hooves. Equus,

Life Data. (2018). Debunking Hoof Remedies for Equine Thrush. Life Data Labs, Inc.

Osweiler, G. (2013). Overview of Petroleum Product Poisoning. Merck Veterinary Manual.

Put Down That WD-40 and Step Away from Your Horse! (n.d.). Pro Equine Grooms.


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