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Chapter 17 Shoeing and hoof care.

Foot and hoof care are essential to the horse because neglect can lead to lameness, a change in the flight of the foot, and a rough gait. The adage "no foot, no horse" is as true as ever. Lameness of feet and legs has many causes. If a problem is not treated immediately, permanent disabilities can result. The foot care a horse receives can hasten or delay permanent unsoundness.


After completing this chapter, you should be able to:

* Describe the internal and external parts of the hoof

* Explain the three main functions of the hoof wall

* Explain why the condition of the frog of the horse's foot is a good indication of the health of the horse

* Discuss how corrective shoeing can help toed-in and toed-out horses

* List steps involved in picking up a horse's feet

* Explain the importance of inspecting feet daily

* List five tools used in caring for a horse's feet Describe how to shoe a horse

* Discuss why it is important to start foot care early in a horse's life

* Describe why trimming should be done carefully

* Explain how the weight of the horse is carried on the foot/hoof

* Name common problems of the feet

* Describe trimming and how trimming can correct minor problems




clinch cutter

coffin bone




deep flexor tendon



hoof leveler

hoof pick

hoof wall




navicular bone




plantar cushion





shoeing apron


To understand proper care of a horse's feet, the structure of the foot and the functions of its various parts must be known and understood. The major parts of a horse's foot are the hoof wall, coronet, sole, frog, and the internal structures such as the bones, cartilages, tendons, and connective tissue (Figures 17-1 and 17-2).

Hoof Wall

The hoof wall is a horny substance made up of parallel fibers. It should be dense, straight, and free from rings (ridges) and cracks. Viewed from the side, the wall at the toe should be a continuation of the slope of the pastern.

The main functions of the hoof wall are to:

* Provide a weight-bearing surface not easily worn away

* Protect the internal structure of the foot

* Maintain moisture in the foot

Usually, the hoof wall is thicker at the toe than at the quarter (side) and heel. The hoof wall is protected by the periople, a varnish-like coating that also holds moisture in the hoof (Figures 17-1 and 17-2).


The coronet, or coronary band, is the source of growth for the hoof wall. It is directly above the hoof wall and is protected by a thick layer of skin and dense hair. A healthy foot will grow about 3/8 inch per month. A change in the growth rate of the hoof can be caused by a change in the amount of exercise, the ration, illness, and the animal's general state of health and condition. Injury to the coronary band can result in irregular growth of the hoof wall and can develop into a permanently unsound hoof wall (refer to Figure 17-2).

The hind feet may grow faster than the forefeet, and unshod feet may grow faster than shod feet. The feet of mares and geldings seem to grow faster than those of stallions.


The sole of the foot is a horny substance that protects the sensitive inner portions of the foot. It should be firm, slightly concave, and of uniform texture. The horse has no feeling at the exterior sole surface.

A flat-footed horse tends to receive more bruises and injuries to the sole. Also, horses that have experienced founder and have developed a dropped sole are more easily bruised at the sole.



The frog, located at the heel of the foot, forms a "V" into the center of the sole (refer to Figure 17-1). The frog is a spongy, flexible pad that is also a weight-bearing surface. It is the intermediate organ between the plantar cushion and the source of pressure from the horse's weight. The frog is separated from the sole of the foot by two lines called commissures.

The condition of the frog generally is a good indication of the health of the foot. Without proper flexibility, expansion, and ground contact, the frog cannot perform its function in complementing the circulation of blood and absorption of shock throughout the foot.

Internal Foot Structure

To be able to provide proper foot care, the owner or handler needs to understand the important internal parts of the horse's foot and their functions (Figure 17-2).

The coffin bone provides the shape of the foot and the rigidity needed to bear weight. The plantar cushion expands and contracts to absorb shock and pumps blood from the foot back toward the heart.


The navicular bone serves as a fulcrum and bearing surface for the deep flexor tendon, which is responsible for extension of the foot as it progresses through a stride.

Sensitive laminae serve not only as a means of attachment for the hoof wall and the coffin bone but also as the main area of blood circulation within the foot.


Foot care is one of the most neglected of all horse management practices. Most lameness that impairs the usefulness of a horse can be prevented by proper foot care and reasonable management.

Most foot care practices can be done by the average horse owner. But horse owners should know when to seek the help of a professional, especially for corrective shoeing and disease treatment and control. A farrier is a person who cleans, trims, and performs the actual horseshoeing. The farrier and the veterinarian should work together to keep the horse sound (Figure 17-3).

Foot care should be as routine as feeding and watering. It should include:

* Routine cleaning

* Periodic trimming

* Corrections of minor imperfections

* Treatment of foot diseases and injuries

Ideally, a horse's feet should be inspected and cleaned every day. A hoof pick or fine-bristled wire brush can be used for cleaning the sole, frog, and hoof wall. This will improve the likelihood of detecting problems early. A nail or other object stuck in the foot is a serious medical condition that should be treated as soon as possible. It is important to note that too much pressure from the wire brush can damage the periople, which would disturb the moisture balance of the foot.

The hoof wall grows an average of 1/4 inch per month. Most horses' hooves are trimmed and shod every 6 to 8 weeks. This depends, of course, on the rate of growth and the wearing of the hoof wall. If the horse spends time on hard surfaces, the hoof wears down faster than it does on a horse in a soft, lush pasture.

Sometimes, the sides of the hoof will grow or wear at different rates. This causes the legs to look, and possibly be, crooked. Corrective trimming can level the hoof.


Care of the Foal's Feet

Foot care should begin early by teaching foals to allow handling and cleaning of their feet. If this practice is followed, it will save both the young horse and the farrier considerable trouble later when it is time to trim and shoe. Handling a foal or young horse's feet may be somewhat tricky at the start, but when owners follow proper procedures, young horses will soon become very easy to handle and trim. Many foals have crooked legs. Corrective trimming can help straighten their legs by evening the wear on their hooves.


As with any trade, special tools are used in caring for the horse's feet. The farrier's basic tools include:

* Hoof pick--used to clean any dirt or rocks from hoof crevices

* Nippers--used to remove extra hoof wall

* Clinch cutter and pincher or puller--used to remove shoes that have been worn and are ready to be taken off

* Hammer--two kinds can be used: one for driving the nails in and the other for shaping or rounding the horseshoe on the anvil

* Rasp--needed for leveling the foot

* Hoof leveler--used to determine the angle of the hoof wall and check that the hoof is level to the ground

Additional equipment often includes a heavy shoeing apron to protect the horseshoer and an anvil to shape the horseshoes.

Foot Cleaning

The foot should be cleaned from the heel toward the toe with a hoof pick. Special care should be taken to clean the commissures on each side of the frog and the cleft of the frog itself, but the heel should not be opened excessively. This weakens the area and interferes with proper contraction and expansion of the heel (Figure 17-4).


After the horse has been ridden, its soles must be cleaned and checked for gravel or other foreign objects that could be lodged in the natural depressions of the foot. A nail, gravel, stick, or other object can work into the foot and cause lameness for a long time. Objects have been known to exist in a horse's foot for as long as a year before emerging at the heel or along the coronet. When a foreign particle emerges at the coronary area, a sore, called a quittor, usually develops. This problem can easily lead to serious infection.

Periodic Trimming

Trimming of the feet is important, although it is not needed as frequently as cleaning. Trimming should be done at about 4-week intervals on horses kept in stalls or paddocks, or about 6-week intervals for horses used heavily or running in pastures.

The main goal in trimming is to retain the proper shape and length of the foot. Most people should feel comfortable pulling shoes and trimming feet while they wait for the farrier.

The bottom of the foot should be kept level, and the inside and outside walls should be maintained at equal lengths. The toe of normal feet and pasterns should be 3 inches long; the quarter, 2 inches; and the heel, 1 inch.

The hoof wall should be trimmed with nippers to remove excess length, then a rasp is used to smooth and level the bottom of the foot. Each stroke of the rasp needs to run from the heel through the toe to prevent uneven areas in the hoof wall.

A white line is external evidence of the lamination (sensitive laminae) between the hoof wall and the coffin bone. The sole of the foot is usually the same thickness in a normal horse. The sole should not be trimmed to an unnatural shape. To do so would make parts of the sole dangerously thin and tender.

Trimming the sole, referred to as lowering the sole, is done to keep the pressure on the hoof wall rather than on the sensitive inner parts of the foot. The dead, flaky tissue should be trimmed from the sole. Live tissue, elastic when stretched between the fingers, should not be trimmed away.

The frog should not be trimmed excessively because it should contact the ground with each step. It is trimmed only enough to remove dead tissue and to provide a uniform and adequate fissure along the junction of the sole and the frog.

After the bearing surface has been rasped to a level surface of proper length, the edges of the wall should be rounded if the horse will not be shod. This prevents chipping and peeling as the foot contacts rocks, logs, or other obstructions.

Trim the heels low enough to promote expansion and prevent contraction of the heels. The main concern is to trim often enough to prevent cracking and uneven wear, which could eventually contribute to the improper set of the feet and legs. With a little practice, most horse owners should be able to routinely trim the feet of horses that do not need corrective work. To prevent harmful mistakes, owners need to seek the help of a professional farrier when trying to correct an improper turn or set of the feet and legs. A more detailed discussion of foot trimming appears later in this chapter.

Maintaining Hoof-wall Angle

Horse owners should maintain the proper angle of the hoof wall in relation to the ground and the angle of the pastern. Shoes that are left on too long change the angle of the foot relative to the pastern and can cause lameness. The angle of the hoof wall should approximate the angle formed by the shoulder and the pastern--usually 45 to 55 degrees.

Because the hoof wall is narrower at the heel than at the toe, heels wear first, whether the horse is barefoot or on shoes. Low heels put more stress on the tendons of the leg. If a horse is shod at a 50-degree angle, this angle may change. A 50-degree angle might be down to 46 or 47 degrees in 4 to 6 weeks. This affects the action of the horse and puts more strain on tendons and ligaments.

As the hoof grows larger, the walls at the heels will overlap the shoe. When a shoe presses on the bars, the danger of producing corns in the foot exists. Running a horse with shoes that have been left on too long also can cause bowed tendons. Regular trimming and shoe resetting are essential in avoiding these problems.

Foot angle varies from breed to breed, and much variation is found among horses of the same breed. Generally, the Western breeds have steeper pasterns and a greater angle at the ground than the other breeds. Unless some correction is needed, as in forging and scalping, the foot should be trimmed to its natural angle because any change would result in stress to other areas of the column of bones in the leg.

Corrections of Minor Imperfections

The most common deviations from a normal set of feet and legs are when either front or rear feet toe in (pigeon-toed) or toe out. Other problems commonly corrected by trimming are cocked ankles, buck knees, calf knees, sickle hocks, and slight rotations of the cannon bone. Also, some common faults in the movement of feet in a stride--forging, scalping, interfering, and brushing--are corrected by careful trimming.

When trimming feet, conformation of the horse needs to be considered. For example, a splayfooted horse (feet turned out) bears more weight on the inside wall and heel than on the outside. Wear is greatest, both shod and barefoot, where weight is borne. The objective in corrective trimming is to remove more of the outside wall and heel than the inside. This will shift the horse's weight near the center of its feet. A pigeon-toed horse is trimmed exactly the opposite.

Bone structure of adult horses cannot be changed much, but their action can be improved. Corrective trimming of young horses every 6 weeks or 2 months up to 2 years of age will substantially improve bone structure.

Treatment of Foot Diseases and Injuries

Disease organisms concentrate where animals are confined, so cleanliness is important. Horses kept in a stall or small pen should have their feet picked or cleaned daily to reduce the risk of thrush. Thrush is the condition resulting from bacterial penetration into the frog and surrounding area. The bacteria produce a foul odor and cause the frog to become soft and mushy. If allowed to go untreated, thrush can cause serious lameness and extensive treatment will be necessary.
How to Stay in Good with Your Farrier

Answer these questions about yourself:

* Was the farrier bruised from head to
foot by an old spoiled horse while you
stroked the horse's neck, proclaiming
it wouldn't hurt a fly?

* Did you tip or offer to pay more when the
farrier committed extra time and patience to
a young horse being shod for the first time?

* Did you call the farrier out to shoe three
horses, then decide to shoe only one when
he or she got there?

* Did the farrier have to help chase the horse
all over the farm to catch it before shoeing?

* Did you pay the farrier promptly and in full?
Answer these questions about the farrier's

* Was the shoe shaped to fit the foot?

* Were the foot and shoe both leveled?

* Was the shoe set fully forward, foot not
dubbed off?

* Were the frog and bars "opened up" but
not pared away?

* Was the experience satisfactory for the
horse or were its ribs bruised from blows
of the rasp?

Honestly answering these questions will help
you build a solid relationship with your farrier.

Extremely wet conditions such as a muddy lot or wet stall promote rapid drying of the feet. The natural oils and protective films of the foot are eroded from constant contact with external moisture. Large horses with small feet commonly have hoof dryness problems.

Moisture. Moisture in the horse's feet helps to maintain flexibility and prevent cracking. Most of the moisture needed in a healthy and well-protected foot can come from within. One way to maintain proper moisture in the foot is to regularly apply a good hoof dressing containing some animal fat such as lanolin. If the dressing is not a petroleum derivative, it can be massaged into the coronet, the frog, and the sole as well as on the hoof wall. The dressing helps to keep the sole pliable and to eliminate dead tissue around the frog and heel. Also, massaging the coronet stimulates growth of a healthy new hoof wall.

Lost Shoes. When a shoe is lost, it is important to promptly cut the hoof wall level with the sole to prevent it from breaking above this point while awaiting the farrier. Removing the opposite shoe and lowering the hoof wall to equal the length of the other hoof will balance the gait of the horse.

Nail Pricks. Much lameness results from nail pricks. Horses should not be ridden in areas littered with trash and boards containing nails. Injury caused by nails can ruin a horse. As soon as a nail prick is identified, prompt medical attention and packing is needed to prevent infection by ground-borne disease organisms. Horses usually are fitted with a protective boot after being pricked by a nail, and they may be shod with a pad after the condition has been treated and shows signs of recovery.

Founder. Fat horses tend to have problems with laminitis (founder). This is especially common among horses with some Shetland pony breeding. Grass founder in the spring produces more laminitis than any other single cause. If the horse is fat, grazes abundant grass, and is not exercised, there is great risk of laminitis.

Laminitis commonly causes lameness. Horses with laminitis have extreme pain and soreness, especially in their front feet. They try to bear their weight on their back legs and lighten the front end as much as possible by carrying their front feet forward and their back feet up under their bodies. Therapeutic trimming and shoeing may make a horse with laminitis sound enough for light work and normal reproduction. Chapter 14 provides more details on laminitis.


Many sizes, shapes, and types of shoes are available (Figure 17-5). Many different types of prefabricated shoes are available that are either hot- or cold-fitted to the horse. The most important aspect of shoeing is fitting the shoe to the horse and not the horse to the shoe. Learning and practicing safe handling of the horse's feet are important steps in performing routine foot care. In shoeing a horse, farriers follow a number of steps to assure a correct fit.

Picking Up a Horse's Feet

Pick up the front foot by rubbing the leg up high and gently working down to the ankle. Brace a free hand against the horse's shoulder for more stability. If the horse fails to lift its foot, gentle pressure on the tendon behind the cannon bone with thumb and forefinger usually will persuade the animal to cooperate. Once the foot is raised, allow the horse to hold it in a comfortable position.

If the horse is uncomfortable, it will not stand well. Trying to maintain a relaxed and comfortable position is best for both horse and yourself when holding the horse's leg between your knees. For this reason, shoeing young horses for the first time in fly season can be a challenge unless effective fly repellents are used. Figure 17-6 shows how to pick up a horse's feet.

Picking up the hind foot of foals and young horses is dangerous unless done correctly. Pick up the left foot first, since most horses are accustomed to being handled from this side. Approach the horse from the front and place the left hand on his hip; then run the right hand down the back of the horse's leg to just above the ankle. Pull forward on the cannon until the horse yields its foot. If you feel tense muscles, go more slowly. Step promptly under the raised foot with the inside leg and pull the foot into your lap. Lock it in place with your elbow over the hock and your toes pointed toward each other. Hold the foot in this position so both hands are free to work. If the horse resists, move more slowly.

To lift a hind foot, keep one hand near the hip and go down the leg slowly with the other. Work in close to the horse. If the horse won't yield the foot, squeeze the tendon to get the horse to yield the foot. Move the hand in front of the cannon or fetlock as the foot rises. Position the foot firmly between your knees. If the horse struggles and wishes to regain its foot, let it do so. Repeat the procedure until the horse learns to yield its feet willingly.



Now gently push the horse away with the left hand while pulling its foot toward you with the right hand. Next, step to the rear of the horse with the inside foot, pulling the leg straight behind it, and at the same time drawing the hock up under the left arm. The same procedure is followed for the right hind foot except that it is worked left-handed. The foot, bottom up, can now be rested comfortably on your knees for trimming or shoeing. A satisfactory trimming job can be accomplished with a hoof knife, a rasp, and a nipper.

Removing shoes and cold shoeing, however, require additional tools--including shoe pullers, clinchers, shoeing hammer, punch, clinching block, clinch cutters, hoof pick, anvil, shop hammer, and of course shoes and nails. When trimming or shoeing, an apron should always be used. If a shoeing apron is not available, a pair of heavy chaps are good.

Trimming should begin by cleaning the hoof with the hoof pick. Make sure to draw the pick from the heel toward the toe. This method does a good job of cleaning and is safer for the horse. Don't clean from the toe toward the heel. If the horse jerks its foot and the hoof pick from your hand, it can experience severe injury when it steps on the pick in this position.

Removing Old Shoes

Clinches of old nails must be cut or straightened to remove the shoe. If the shoe is pulled without this operation, it will not only be more difficult to remove, but the walls of the hoof may be injured. Clinches may be cut with the clinch cutter or rasped off. A "pull-off" rasp is an old rasp no longer used to level the foot.

Place the blade edge of the clinch cutter under the clinch and straighten it for pulling by light hammer blows. If you have difficulty getting it started, lean the top out and use the back corner nearest your hand.

Most commercial farriers rasp the clinches off with the fine side of their rasp because it is faster than using a clinch cutter. Place the shoe pullers under the shoe at the heel and push down toward the toe to remove the shoe. This operation is repeated on the opposite heel, always working toward the toe, until the shoe is completely free. Do not pry sidewise because of danger of sprains to the horse's tendons.

Trimming Feet

Begin trimming the foot (Figure 17-7) by removing the loose, flaky (outermost) part of the bars. Next, trim each side of the frog just enough to open the seams on each side at the heel of the hoof. This helps keep filth from collecting. Do not lower the frog. This structure should touch the ground when the horse stands on the trimmed foot.

After the frog and bars have been trimmed, use your hoof knife to trim out the soft, flaky part of the sole in order to determine how much of the hoof wall should be trimmed away. Observe the juncture of the sole and wall at the toe. Decide how much will need to come off the toe, with a lesser amount at the heels.

Start the nipper at the heel of the hoof at a depth level with the sole. Often beginners get too deep at the heels and not deep enough at the toe. Proceed around the hoof until the opposite heel is finished. The hoof wall should not be trimmed below the level of the sole. Now the hoof should appear relatively level, and both heels should be the same height.

A relatively level hoof that requires a minimum of rasping is not easy for beginners to accomplish. Beginners do not adequately lower the sole, which serves as a guide for the nippers. This results in unevenness or not removing enough of the wall. Such a condition is not serious, but requires unnecessary rasping.


Use the rasp to finish trimming. Draw the rasp from the heel toward the toe, always taking care to keep the pressure equal over the entire foot.

Move the rasp around over the sides and toe, being careful not to get too deep in one spot. Use a sharp rasp for ease and speed in trimming.

The rasp may be reversed and drawn from the toe toward the heel when trimming the inside of the hoof. Too much pressure on the rasp at the heel will lower the heel too much, and the hoof will not have the correct angle.

Checking Foot Levelness

When you think the foot is level, check levelness by sighting down the hoof from heel to toe. Drop the hoof down so it rests in a normal position with the hoof hanging free. Holding the hoof itself may result in its being slightly twisted, and it may therefore appear level when it is not. Be sure neither heel is high and that there are no low spots around the wall.

The hoof should have an angle of 45 to 55 degrees, depending on the conformation of the particular horse--slope of shoulder and length and slope of pastern. If a horse tends to overreach, trim the hind feet 2 or 3 degrees less than the front. For example, if the front feet are 53 degrees, the hind feet should be 50 degrees. This will permit the front feet to break over faster and prevent overreaching.

Both front and both hind feet must have the same angle. This can be checked by using a hoof level. A hoof level is not absolutely necessary for amateur trimming and/or shoeing, but it helps develop skills and improves accuracy.

If the hoof is to be trimmed and not shod, all that remains is to round the edges of the hoof wall and lower the sole. Round the edges of the wall with the fine side of the rasp. Remove the sharp edges to about one-fourth the thickness of the wall. This reduces the chance of having pieces of the wall break out. If the hoof is to be shod, this step is omitted.

Shaping the Shoe

For the beginner, one of the most difficult parts of shoeing is shaping the shoe. The first rule to remember is to shape the shoe to fit the foot. Shaping the shoe may be made easier by marking the heels of the foot and making a paper tracing from heel to heel.

Use a white grease pencil if the hoof is dark, and mark the back of the heel where the heel of the shoe stops on each side of the foot. Trace the outline of the foot on stiff cardboard or a tablet attached to a clipboard.

A well-shaped front foot is uniformly round and wide at both heel and toe. Since horseshoes seldom come in this shape, substantial shaping will be necessary. Shaping is made easier by using the pattern.

Most new shoes are too narrow for the front feet and must be spread and the heels bent in. This is corrected by hammering the shoe on the anvil and comparing it to the pattern or the hoof.

Check the levelness of the shoe on a flat surface. The face of some anvils will do. The shoe will rock if it has a high spot in it. The ultimate test is a flat board. Raised points caused from hammer blows will have to be beaten down or rasped off before passing this test. Perfect levelness is desirable for both shoe and foot to achieve equal weight distribution. High spots cause a shoe to rock and work loose as well as placing undue strain on that part of the hoof.

Most horses' hind feet are somewhat narrow and pointed at the toe. Shoes are initially round at the toe, so each side will need to be flattened on the back of the anvil. Upon flattening, the shoe will be widened considerably at the heel and must be drawn together.

Nail holes are too small in most manufactured shoes to accommodate the nail. A special punch increases the hole size until the nail head protrudes about 1/16 inch. If the nail head goes flush into the shoe, it cannot be tightened. If it does not go deep enough, it will wear off and the shoe will loosen. Finally, the heel of the shoe should extend to the end of the heel of the front hoof but not beyond. On the hind foot, 3/8 inch of the shoe may extend beyond the heel of the hoof.

Nailing the Shoe On

Now the shoe is ready to be nailed on. The white line on the bottom of the hoof marks the outer edge of the junction between the sensitive part of the hoof and the horny hoof. Any nail driven inside this line will cause pain to the horse and will result in lameness. All nails are driven along or just outside this line. If nails are driven very far outside the white line, they will split the hoof out and the shoe will come off prematurely (Figure 17-8).

Horseshoe nails are beveled on one side, both top and bottom, and are straight on the other side (Figure 17-9). The beveled side is always put on the inside or nearest the center of the foot. This allows the point of the nail to drift toward the outside of the hoof wall when driven. Most inexperienced people are reluctant to drive a nail. They fear "quicking," or driving the nail into sensitive tissues. This is almost impossible unless driving inside the white line or unless the nail is turned to drift inward. Driving high in the wall does not quick the horse. When preparing to nail, position the shoe so that it is fitted flush with the toe of the hoof. Some farriers prefer to drive a toe nail first because this allows easier positioning of the shoe. If the heel nail is driven first, however, the shoe will move less and will be more stable after driving one nail. The two heel nails and two toe nails should be the first four nails driven. Nails should be at least 1 inch deep before they come out through the wall. Once through the hoof wall, each nail should immediately be bent over with the claws of the hammer and twisted off flush with the hoof wall. An apron or chaps should always be used when driving nails, even if the horse is completely gentle. Under some conditions, even the gentlest horses will react.



After all nails are driven, they must be set by placing a clinching bar or nipper under the nail stub and striking the head of the nail. This tightens the shoe on the hoof and locks the nail head in the shoe. Excessive hammering will pull the clinches too far down to be rasped under. Many professional shoers use nippers for clinching.

Before clinching, the burs of splintered hoof wall under each nail are rasped off with the fine edge of the rasp. Also, the twisted ends of the nails on top are rasped with the flat, fine side of the rasp before clinching.

Although clinching can be completed with the hammer and clinching bar, it is much more easily accomplished by using clinchers. This tool is placed over the nail and squeezed together, clinching the nail down.

The goal is evenly spaced nails of adequate height and a shoe fitted "full"--that is, out to the edge of the hoof, with no gaps or "daylight" between hoof and shoe (Figure 17-10). A space under the shoe that allows a knife blade to enter suggests a poor job.

After all nails have been clinched, excess hoof that may protrude over the shoe can be dressed off. Very little, if any, of this should exist. Rasping above the clinched nail injures the hoof wall and may result in drying out or cracking of the hoof.


After-shoeing Care

Many horse owners apply a hoof dressing following shoeing, and some even apply it every day or so. This practice is very easily overdone and may reduce both the strength and pliability of the hoof. If the hoof becomes excessively hard, a small amount of lanolin (wool fat) may be applied to the coronet and the bulbs of the heel.

Additional moisture can be applied by packing the bottom of the hoof with a special type of mud designed for this purpose. One of the simplest and easiest ways to keep a horse's hooves in good condition is to keep the area muddy where the horse goes to drink. This will usually be sufficient moisture to prevent dry cracking, cracked heels, and other problems related to dry hooves.


Foot care is one of the most neglected of horse management practices, even though it is essential to the horse. The most important aspects of good foot care are regularity, frequency, cleanliness, and use of proper corrective measures. An experienced farrier can properly clean, trim, and shoe horses for general soundness or for corrective help. Horses should be taught early in life to yield their feet.


Success in any career requires knowledge. Test your knowledge of this chapter by answering these questions or solving these problems.

True or False

1. Permanent lameness can result from improper foot care.

2. Feeding practices can affect the horse's feet.

3. Corrective trimming does not help a foal's feet.

4. Hooves should be trimmed once every 3 months.

5. Mud around the water source is good for horses' feet.

Short Answer

6. Which grow faster, the hind feet or the forefeet?

7. List four internal and four external parts of the hoof.

8. What part of the horse's foot bears the weight?

9. Name five tools used in horseshoeing.

10. What four problems in the set of the feet and movement of the feet are commonly corrected by good horseshoeing?

Critical Thinking/Discussion

11. Explain why the frog is a good indicator of a horse's health.

12. Discuss the importance of starting hoof care early.

13. Describe, simply, the process for shoeing a horse.

14. Why is it important to check a horse's feet daily?

15. What are the dangers of trimming incorrectly, cleaning incorrectly, or shoeing incorrectly?


1. Visit a farrier to learn more about shoeing and hoof care. Find out how farriers are trained, how much their equipment costs, and approximately how much they charge.

2. Make a drawing or collect some of the types of horseshoes. Indicate the use of each type.

3. Develop a checklist describing how to lift each foot; include any precautions.

4. Obtain a prepared specimen of the bones of the foot. Use this to present a report on laminitis (founder).

5. Develop a checklist that stresses the points of good horseshoeing.

6. Diagram the anatomy of a hoof showing a shoe properly nailed.

7. If possible, go with a farrier to observe the shoeing of a horse.



American Youth Horse Council. (2004). Horse industry handbook: A guide to equine care and management. Lexington, KY: Author.

Evans, J. W. (2000). Horses: A guide to selection, care, and enjoyment (3rd ed.). New York: Owl Books.

Griffin, J. M., & Gore, T. (1998). Horse owner's veterinary handbook (2nd ed.). New York: Howell Book House.

Stashak, T. S. (1996). Horseowner's guide to lameness. Media, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Internet sites represent a vast resource of information, but remember that the URLs (uniform resource locator) for World Wide Web sites can change without notice. Using one of the search engines on the Internet such as Yahoo!, Google, or, find more information by searching for these words or phrases:


hoof anatomy

hoof care

hoof injuries

hoof trimming

horse hoof


Table A-18 in the appendix also provides a listing of some useful Internet sites that can serve as a starting point for further exploration.
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Author:Parker, Rick
Publication:Equine Science, 3rd ed.
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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