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How To Clean a Horse’s Hoof

New to horses? Want perhaps a better way to clean a horse’s hoof?  These step-by-step instructions will help you to safely clean and pick up a horse’s hoof.

We recently received a note from a reader who was having problems with her horse slamming its feet to the ground. This is dangerous and unacceptable. This is how we keep that from happening.

Here are the steps that we use to safely pick a horse’s hoof the right way:

  • Ensure your horse is secured or have a helper hold him or her.
  • Standing next to your horse’s shoulder (for his front feet) face toward your horse’s head. Keep your feet together and turned away from your horse to ensure your toes don’t accidentally get stepped on if he puts his foot down.
  • Run your hand down your horse’s leg to signal that you want him to pick up his foot. Depending on your horse and how cooperative he is about picking his feet up, you might need to use your shoulder to lean some weight against him to encourage him to lift his foot.
  • Use a verbal cue, such as “up” or “hoof” to ask him to lift his foot.
  • As he lifts his foot, hold his leg at the pastern (just above the foot) or hold the hoof itself to offer support. Holding the foot lower is more comfortable for the horse,
  • Using a hoof pick, start cleaning out any rocks, dirt, or other debris from around the frog (the fleshy “triangle” on the bottom of the hoof). If your horse is wearing shoes, trace around the inside of the shoe to check for and remove any debris.
  • Once the foot is clean, gently set your horse’s hoof down on the ground. Resist letting him do it himself—patience on his part might save your toes from getting stepped on. Instead, guide his foot to the floor.
  • Repeat on the remaining hooves.

Cleaning hooves is an important part of basic horse and mule manship. You should clean (or pick) a horse’s hooves before and after riding to avoid bruising from rocks or debris. Additionally, regular cleaning and inspecting of the hooves can also help you identify any problems, such as thrush or loose shoes; if you do notice an issue, consult with your farrier or vet to determine the proper steps to take to remedy the issue.

If you have an issue that I didn’t cover, or need further explanation on anything in this post, just leave a comment!