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July 2008: How to pick up a Hoof

Hoofpick in hand cleaning a hoof

  I thought this month I would just review a basic skill in hoof care that believe it or not, many owners don't know how to do properly. Daily hoof cleaning ("picking") is the best way to assess your horse's hoof condition and alerts you to any oncoming problems or need for attention by a professional. It also creates better ground manners in your horse for handling in other areas, especially for your Trimmer or Vet. Daily picking keeps the hoof a little healthier in the wet months by exposing it to air and preventing infections. This applies to all horses, shod or barefoot and should be second nature to you as a horse owner. 

I'm not dicussing how to pick up untrained horses' hooves as that would take too much space in this month's page. Please seek help for the untrained horse until you are comfortable with gentle horses.

              To pick up a horse's front foot:  

  1.  Stand at his shoulder (I'm using the left, on the right front you would just use the opposite hand).
  2.  Run your left hand over his shoulder and down the back of his leg, gently but firmly.
  3. When you reach the fetlock, rub the leg there, just over the tuft of hair. 
  4. Gently tug on the fetlock if I he doesn't begin to pick up his leg immediately. (if you do this everyday, they pick it up before you even get to the fetlock) If there is still no response, 



  •  Lean your body into his a little to push his weight over to the other foot, then gently use a hoof pick to press down on the bulb of the heel,( this usually works)
  •  The horse doesn't have to hand you his foot, he may just lift the heels off the ground and you can pick it up from there, but I like mine to lift it off the ground completely.

    5. Cradle the hoof in your left hand and use the right to pick out any mud/rocks or debris from the foot.

     6. Start along the frog at the heel and dig out towards the toe.  Check both sides of the frog and dig as deep as you can. There are grooves along the frog that  are pretty deep, and that is where thrush will begin to develop. Also clean the divot in the middle of the frog. It can become infected as well.

    7. Then scrape along the wall. Look puncturs or bits of broken hoof wall. Note of any rocks that had been difficult to dig out (if there's any soreness later, you will know where to tell your trimmer to check).


To pick out a hind leg:

  1.  Run your hand from the top of his hip, all the way down his leg and rub the fetlock. Keep your body close to his in case of a kick. If you are close, the kick won't have as much force behind it as if you were a few inches further away. Just as with the fronts, you can lean your hip into your horse to get him to shift his weight.
  2. The same techniques are used if he's slow to pick it up (the poke and squeeze).
  3. The cleaning procecure is also the same.

Man cues horse to pick up foot
Man picks up hind foot
Close up of squeezing the tendon to pick up the hoof