Crazy Shit Climbers Do: Hoofmaker

Hoofmaker hand cream

This story goes back a long time. Sometime not long after 9/11, I visited the United States for a bouldering trip. We hit areas like Bishop, Joe’s Valley, and Joshua Tree. As a euro-climber, I had pretty soft hands more used to Fontainebleau’s sandstone than the hard crystals of Joshua Tree.

I seemed to go through my skin every couple of days and was forced to take more rest days than I wanted, not because I got tired, but simply because I had no skin left. A local climber introduced me to ‘Hoofmaker’. It’s for horses, he said, but safe to use on human skin.

It worked great: I had strong skin with smooth calluses in no time. Today many products similar to Hoofmaker exist but at the time, this little miracle tube of goo was very precious for me. I eventually went back to Europe and ran out of Hoofmaker. I searched for Hoofmaker in Europe for a while, even going as far as buying a for-real-not-for-humans product for horses but quickly backed off using that as it smelled like the by-product of a meth-lab experiment gone bad.

Turns out that this whole "originally made for horses" backstory is a bit of a marketing ploy and climbers like me fell for it line, hook, skier. The real reason many climbers seem to like it is that unlike many other moisturizers, it uses non-greasy substance for moisturizing since originally it was meant to be used on hooves or nails rather than skin.The moisturising mechanism is different, giving it a dryer feel that climbers seem to like.

Today Hoofmaker is readily available online. Hail e-commerce, I guess? It’s still a good cream to build strong skin but in the decades since I first used Hoofmaker, many competing products have joined this niche. A good hand cream for climbers hydrates the skin and encourages new skin growth. It’s especially the latter Hoofmaker excels at and what makes it such a great product for climbers, not by design, but by accident.

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