Keeping your horse’s feet picked out and cleaned is one of the most important elements in any horse owner’s daily routine. In fact, this is the number one recommendation by farrier’s for proper hoof care. Even if you don’t have a chance to do anything else for your horse, you should make sure that you perform this daily act of kindness and grooming. It gives you the opportunity to check on the health of the hooves, check the condition of the shoes, if the horse is shod, and to remove any wedged stones or other foreign articles.
How to Clean a Horse Hoof
Starting with the near fore leg, stand by the horse’s shoulder, facing the tail. Run your left hand down his leg and down the back of the tendons to the fetlock. Grasp hold of the fetlock joint or tuft of hair if there is one. At this point, a well-trained horse will lift its leg automatically. If not, then squeeze gently with your thumb and forefinger to encourage the horse to lift its leg. If you still don’t get any give, just lean your weight slightly but firmly into the horse‘s shoulder to push its weight across to the off side, leaving the horse no choice but to lift its leg.
Then, hold the foot with your left hand and the hoof pick in your right. You must always use the hoof pick from heel to toe, and not upwards towards the heel of the foot. Starting at the heel, use the hoof pick to remove any mud, debris and stones from the foot, and ensure that you clear out the cleft between the sole of the foot and the frog. Be careful not to poke too hard at the actual frog with the hoof pick as this part of the foot is soft and reasonably sensitive.
Once you have cleared away all the dirt, you can brush the sole of the foot, either with the little brush that is often integral to some hoof picks, or you can use a stiff brush kept especially for this purpose.
After this, use your fingers to check the condition of the sole of the foot and the frog. They should be firm and cool to the touch with no discharge or bad odors. Check the shoe, if there is one, ensuring that it is not loose, and that the nails are tight and the clenches have not risen. Repeat this process on the other three feet. You may wish to apply hoof oil or grease to each of the feet after cleaning.
Following this routine every day will help spot any hoof problems at an early stage.