From your first riding lesson, you were told to pick your horse’s hooves out every single day (or you should have been).
If you did Pony Club or 4-H, you may have been flogged for not doing it. Do you actually pick your horse’s hooves out every day though? Be honest! I know, probably not.
I will totally admit that I do not, but I have a farrier living at my house. He’s pretty picky (haha) about getting the hooves picked regularly. He made sure that, while our new foal isn’t halter broke, you can totally walk up to him and pick up and clean all four feet without issue. Haley is our only horse that pushes the envelope for hoof handling behavior.
Prevention is almost always way cheaper than a cure—and nowhere is this more true than in the case of picking out hooves. There are lots of good reasons to clean your horse’s hooves on a regular basis, including:
1. Removing random objects
Horses can pick up the darndest things just walking around. They are magnets for debris—the more danger it presents, the stronger the attraction. It’s our job as owners to remove these things before they cause problems.
Obviously, keeping their living areas free from stuff is ideal, but a horse can find that needle in a haystack, and then use it to create a vet bill. Things farriers have actually found in hooves:
- Construction nails
- Shards of PVC pipe
- Metal, of all shapes and sizes
- Horseshoe nails (oops)
- Pieces of trees
- Mattress springs
- Cactus spines
- Miscellaneous trash
If you find something that’s just wedged in there, do your best to pry it out. If it appears to be actually embedded in or has punctured the hoof, your best bet is to call your vet or farrier for some guidance. Your horse may need antibiotics and a tetanus shot if it did puncture the sensitive layers of the hoof.
2. Detecting infections
It’s way easier to get thrush, or seedy toe, or any number of other hoof maladies under control if they’re caught early in the process. Cleaning those hooves out lets you find the problem and treat it before it becomes an expensive, frog-eroding disaster.
3. Finding problems
A loose nail in your horse’s shoe can let the shoe shift and cause a bruise—or worse injury. Same for a sprung (bent) shoe heel, or a significant chip in the hoof wall. Remember, the entire weight of the horse is standing on those hooves all day, every day. That’s a lot of weight to support on healthy hooves—any damage can quickly be magnified.
Your horse needs to learn to pick up his feet willingly and have his hooves and legs handled without moving or fighting. This will endear you to your farrier and veterinarian, and it could actually save your horse’s life. If he ever has an injury (and the word “horse” means “injury” in some languages), the ability to treat and care for the area appropriately could mean the difference between a successful recovery and a disaster.
Picking your horse’s hooves routinely is also just some good bonding time. You get used to what his hooves and legs look like normally, so you can spot changes right away. You can judge his mood before you climb aboard.
Give it a try! Make picking feet part of your regular grooming routine (if it isn’t already, you overachiever). Your horse, farrier, vet, and wallet will thank you for it!
About the Author
Nancy Rich-Gutierrez is an IT professional and manages her husband’s farrier company. When she’s not busy with her full-time job or running the office for her farrier, she’s chasing their two-year-old and riding her Arabian horses. Check out the HG Horseshoeing blog at hghorseshoeing.com.