How to Care for Horse Hooves – Inspect and Clean
Little Patrick from www.DressYourHorse.com 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
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
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."
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.
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
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.
The last two feet to go - start again with the front leg, finishing with the rear leg.
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.
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
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