How to Care for Horse Hooves – Inspect and Clean
Little Patrick from an eHow Community Member

The old-time cowboys said it right, "No hooves, no horse!" Without sound
legs and healthy hooves, your horse doesn't have "a leg" to stand on.

Much has been written about hoof care and, nutritionally, there are many
beneficial hoof supplements . However, this article focuses on the basic day-
to-day maintenance of your horse's hooves.

Hoof care is an important part of your horse grooming regimen. You should
regularly inspect, clean out and condition his hooves. It is important not to
skimp on hoof care chores or skip cleaning hooves altogether.

You have groomed your horse; he feels great and shines like a newly-
minted coin. All that's left to do are the hooves. For your horse's health,
complete this process just as thoroughly as you did the grooming!

The Old Gray Mare needs to mention several safety points here:

Always wear hard-toed shoes or boots when working with your horse.

Watch out for your feet when you work anywhere around your horse. Your
horse is a live, breathing, thinking animal - he may move around, startle, or
get restless.

Stand off to the side when you work on the front leg(s). If your horse strikes
out with his front leg, you do not want to be within striking distance.
Likewise, if he fusses, steps around or fidgets, you need to be able to react
and step aside.

Stand beside the rear leg. Do not stand too far to the front of the leg in case
he cow kicks; do not stand too far behind the rear leg in case he kicks. Stay
out of the "line of fire."


Step 1
Make sure you have your horse's attention as you begin to work around his
feet. Start your hoof inspection and cleaning on his left side, front leg. Ask
him to lift his foot (say Pick Up) by applying gentle squeezing pressure at
the bottom rear of the cannon bone. He's over 1000 pounds and if he's not
ready to lift his foot you need to motivate him to do so ask again. With
repetition, he will automatically raise his feet. Hold his foot up firmly and
clean out the hoof thoroughly with a hoofpick. Scrape all soiled matter out
until you see clean hoof wall. Pay special attention to the frog, the area
around the frog and the heel.

Step 2
Now that you can see all hoof surfaces clearly, check for cracks anywhere in
the hoof wall, the condition of the frog, whether the heel has contracted,
whether clinches are loosening, if nails are missing, how the foot is wearing.
Put extra care into finding old or new punctures, infection or abscess. Note
any foul odor and discharge from the frog. Determine if it is time to reshoe
or trim. Gently release the foot.

Step 3
You will repeat the cleaning and inspection of the left rear foot in the same
manner and move over to your horse's off side.

**The Old Gray Mare notes another safety point: Never move around
behind the horse to go to the other side without giving clear signal. Best
practice is always to go in front of him. If you must go behind your horse, do
not startle him - firmly touch his hip and stroke your hand back to the flank
to indicate that you are shifting position -- keep your distance, watch the
horse and step around him.

Step 4
The last two feet to go - start again with the front leg, finishing with the rear

Step 5
His four feet are now clean, and you have thoroughly inspected the
condition of the hooves and frogs. If you have determined that a trim is in
order, you will schedule the farrier. If there is a discharge or foul odor, you
will treat for thrush (The Old Gray Mare Article: Care for Horse Hooves -
Thrush). If you have found a puncture, wound, infection or abscess, treat
immediately - I recommend professional care by your veterinarian.

Step 6
You have now completed the basic hoof cleaning and inspection procedure
that needs to be done each time you groom your horse.

Next, once or twice a week, you will do simple hoof maintenance in addition
to the cleaning. With a stiff bristle hoof brush, briskly brush the outer
surface of each foot to stimulate new growth, to boost blood circulation and
to clean the surface. Apply a hoof conditioner on and under the hoof paying
particular attention to the coronet band and new hoof growth. Do not
overuse hoof conditioner - adhere to the manufacturer's recommendations.

It is easy to take proper care of your horse's feet. Combined with your hoof
cleaning routine and the regular six to eight-week service of your farrier,
your horse will have solid and sound feet.

Enjoy your horse!
Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156          fax: 301-421-9049


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