How to Care for Horse Hooves - Inspect and Clean

ArticleHow to - CareTuesday 15 December 2009
Horse Hooves
You must take care of your horse’s hooves as they are the most used part of a horse’s body. Without healthy hooves your horse doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Looking after your horse’s hooves is an important part of your horse care regime, you should regularly pick and condition the hooves. Even though cleaning your horse’s hooves may not be the most exciting of chores, it is important not to skip doing it altogether. There are serious health repercussions and the possibility of arthritis and becoming lame if your horse’s hooves are left to fend for themselves.

Shod or Barefoot?

It is vital that every horse should be looked at as an individual when deciding whether or not it should be shod. You will need to think about the horse’s workload, environment and the owner’s circumstances. It is essential to get the advice of a farrier when deciding if your horse should be shod or go barefoot.
You should always remember that trimming a horse’s hooves is a very skilled job. The way the hoof is shaped affects how the horse moves and changes the stresses that are imposed on different parts of the legs.
Currently in the UK anyone can trim a horses hooves although this is not advised at all. Only a farrier is allowed to nail on shoes and it is always recommended that you use a farrier even for the simplest of trims. If your horse is shod then it is a good idea to learn how to remove a shoe if it comes loose. Your farrier will show you how to do this, make sure you do not attempt it until you know how. Whenever in doubt call a farrier.
You can think of horse hoof care as a joint effort between you and your farrier. It is your responsibility to care for your horses hooves every day, picking out the hooves to remove dirt and stones. You should also keep your eyes on the condition of your horses shoes to make sure they are fitted securely and there are no risen clenches. Another aspect of horse hoof care that is down to you is keeping your horses bedding clean and dry or your horse might get infections such as thrush.
All other aspects of horse hoof care should be left to your farrier. Whether your horse is working or not you will need a farrier every six weeks to check your horses feet.

Horse Hoof Cleaning - Safety Tips

• Wear hard toed shoes when working with your horse.
• Stand to the side when working on your horses hooves, you always want to be out of striking distance if your horse gets spooked.

Injuries in Horse’s Hooves

• If your horse injures its hoof then you should pack it to make sure that no bacteria and contaminants can get at the wound and infect the foot.
• To prevent injury just avoid areas with litter when riding.

Horse Care – Horses Hoof Cleaning Step by Step

1. Make sure you have the attention of your horse before trying to clean his hooves.
2. Start the hoof inspection from the front left leg. To get your horse to raise his hoof squeeze the bottom of the cannon bone gently and say ‘pick up.’
3. Hold the hoof up firmly, horses are heavy animals, and clean out the hoof thoroughly with a hoof pick.
4. Scrape all the muck out of the horse hoof until you see a clean hoof wall.
5. Now you have a clear view of the hoof wall look carefully to see if there are any cracks, clinches loosening, if nails are missing and at general foot wear.
6. Look for old and new punctures, infections or abscesses.
7. Take note of any bad smells and discharge.
8. Decide if it is time for a farrier to re-shoe or trip the hooves.
9. Place the horse’s foot back down gently.
10. Move to the rear left leg and repeat.
11. When moving to the horse’s off side travel in front of him. Start again with the front leg and repeat with the rear.
12. After cleaning all four of the horse’s hooves you will have determined if you need to schedule a farrier.
13. If you find bad odour or discharge you should treat your horse for equine thrush.
14. When checking the hooves, if you find an abscess, puncture wound or infection then call your vet. It is important part of horse care to get a professional opinion.
15. These are the steps you must follow every time you groom your horse.
16. Once or twice a week you should use a stiff bristle brush to rub over the horse’s hooves to stimulate new growth.
17. Apply horses hoof conditioner on and under the hoof. Do not overuse this conditioner; follow the instructions on the label.
18. When combining this horse care routine with a regular six to eight week visit from the farrier your horse should have perfect and healthy hooves.


• The lengths of the two front feet should be the same.
• The length of the two back feet should be the same.
• Wet feet will promote infections such as thrush so keep them dry when you can.
• Nutrition should be looked after to prevent cracked horse hooves.
• Regular exercise will keep the horse hoof strong.
• Standing in mud for long periods could damage horse legs and feet.


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