If you’ve ever gotten a pebble stuck in your shoe, you know how quickly it can make walking an uncomfortable experience. But can you imagine if your shoes were filled with twigs, nails, rocks, and dirt?
This is exactly what happens to your horse if their hooves aren’t regularly cleaned.
Many horse owners believe that the farrier is responsible for the upkeep of their horse’s hooves. But if you let months pass between farrier visits, you allow for all sorts of debris to collect within the hooves. This can lead to discomfort, infection, and in the worst cases, lameness.
As a horse owner, it is your duty to ensure that your horse has healthy hoof quality. To maintain your horse’s overall health and well-being, follow our step-by-step guide to learn how to incorporate horse hoof cleaning into your daily routine.
Why Horse Hoof Cleaning Matters
Your horse’s hooves are arguably the most important part to take care of. After all, they’re what allow your horse to trot, canter, and gallop freely. But when your horse’s hooves become impacted with debris and mud, even the simple task of walking can become unbearable. In severe cases, an impacted horse’s hoof can lead to hoof cracks, lameness, and other hoof problems.
With daily cleaning, you can keep your horse’s hooves in optimal condition. Not only does this prevent discomfort, but it also stops any injuries from seriously damaging the hoof. Debris such as twigs, rocks, nails, wire, and even glass can bruise or puncture your horse’s sole. Without proper cleaning and care, a hoof puncture can lead to infections and abscesses.
Regular cleaning is also the only way to remove impacted dirt, mud, and manure from the hoof. When you give your horse a bath, take the time to carefully clean out their hooves to prevent horse scratches, infections or other issues. Cuts and abscesses in horses can pose a real issue if left untreated. Unclean hooves are a hotbed for bacterial and fungal infections, such as thrush. If left untreated, thrush eats away at your horse’s hooves, leading to hoof deterioration and in extreme cases, lameness.
How to Clean a Horse’s Hooves
Cleaning your horse’s hooves can seem intimidating. But with our step-by-step guide, you can make the process efficient and pain-free for both you and your equine friend.
#1 Tie Your Horse Up
The last thing you want is for your horse to walk away while you’re trying to clean their hooves, so make sure your horse is safely tied up. This will also help prevent injury if your horse becomes spooked during the process.
#2 Position Yourself Properly
You should never stand directly in front of or behind your horse while cleaning their hooves. To maintain your own safety, stand next to your horse’s front shoulder, facing their rear.
#3 Lift the Foot
Cue your horse to lift their foot. If your horse doesn’t know how to lift their foot willingly, there are several ways you can signal this action. Start by placing your hand on your horse’s back. Then, slowly run your hand down your horse’s leg until you reach their foot.
Gently pull the rear of the cannon area, or gently squeeze the fetlock to signal to your horse you want them to lift their hoof. You should hold your horse’s hoof with your non-dominant hand to allow your stronger, dominant hand to do the cleaning.
#4 Clean the Hoof
Using a hoof pick, work from heel to toe to clean your horse’s hoof. Start with the collateral groove. This deep crevice easily becomes packed with dirt, bedding, rocks, and mud. To effectively remove all debris, you want to apply a sufficient amount of pressure.
Also pay special attention to the white line—the area where the hoof wall meets the sole. Often, dirt that enters your horse’s hoof through this area can cause conditions such as white line disease or seedy toe.
#5 Apply a preventative Hoof treatment
Once you can clearly see the sole of the hoof, you can apply a hoof treatment, especially if the hooves are exposed to prolonged wet environments. Vetericyn’s Hoof Care Spray effectively clears the hoof of pathogens that can cause hoof disease, and it also leaves a protective barrier to further defend your horse against unwelcome bacteria, fungi and especially thrush. For more serious cases, Vetericyn’s Hoof Soak penetrates deep into the hoof cavity to purge & remove hoof-eating microbes.
#6 Gently Set the Hoof Down
Controlling when and where the hoof is set down ensures your own feet or fingers aren’t accidentally stepped on. More importantly, if you let your horse put their own foot down, they may learn that they can put their hoof down at any point during cleaning. Not only will this make the cleaning process more tedious, but also more dangerous.
Maintaining Hoof Health
Aside from routine cleanings, there are a number of other habits you can put into practice to ensure your horse’s hooves remain strong and healthy.
- Inspect hooves on a daily basis – Check your horse’s hooves for debris before and after riding. Regular inspections will also help you stay on top of wounds, fungal infections, or loose shoes.
- Avoid turning your horse out in poor conditions – Frequently walking your horse through wet, muddy pastures can put them at a higher risk of developing thrush.
- Keep bedding clean and dry – When bed shavings are moist, they can more easily cling to the horse hoof. This creates a warm, damp environment where bacteria can thrive. Standing water and mud are also culprits for hoof problems. A clean environment is the best form of prevention!
- Promote regular exercise – Consistent exercise increases blood circulation in the hooves. This helps promote hoof growth and overall hoof health.
- Inquire about nutrition and supplements – Nutrition plays a significant role in your horse’s hoof health, so ask your vet if there are any improvements you can make to your horse’s diet.
Healthy Hooves for a Healthy Horse
To guarantee your horse’s health, start at the hooves. Regular, efficient cleanings are the best way to prevent painful hoof infections and avoid hoof deterioration. Plus, with Vetericyn’s Hoof Care Spray and Hoof Soak you can add an extra layer of preventative care and treatment to your horse’s hooves. This means maintaining healthy hooves that can carry you and your horse through years of adventures.
Looking for more blogs on horse care? Check out our post on pink eye in horses!
- The Spruce Pets. Cleaning Your Horse’s Hooves. https://www.thesprucepets.com/cleaning-your-horses-hooves-1886828
- Extension. Cleaning a Horse’s Hoof. https://horses.extension.org/cleaning-a-horses-hoof/
- Equus. How to Clean a Horse’s Hooves. https://equusmagazine.com/horse-care/hooves-10210
- Practical Horseman. Ten Hoof Care Tips to Keep Your Horse’s Hooves Healthy and Strong. https://practicalhorsemanmag.com/health-archive/ten-horse-hoof-care-tips-11352
- Farnam. Are You Making One of the Most Common Hoof Care Mistakes? https://www.farnam.com/stable-talk/are-you-making-one-of-the-most-common-hoof-care-mistakes
- Equine Helper. Cleaning a Horse’s Hooves: Easy Illustrated Guide. https://equinehelper.com/cleaning-a-horses-hooves/