Trimming Hooves

Hoof care is a very important part to maintaining your horse’s health.  You may have heard the phrase “no hoof, no horse.”  For the most part this is true.  If a horse’s hooves are not properly taken care of they may become lame.  If they become lame, it is near impossible for them to do their job, carry us.  Regular trimming of your horse’s hooves along with a proper diet can help your horse maintain healthy hooves.

Because of the economy, more and more people are resorting to trimming their horses themselves or worse not having them trimmed at all.  In this article, I’m going to cover the steps we use to trim our horses as taught to my husband by our late farrier.  If you have never trimmed a horse before, I recommend you hire a professional and watch how it is done.  If you make a mistake on your horse’s hooves you could cause them to be sore or lame.  There is a lot of science in trimming a hoof, and here I’m just covering the basics.  If your horse has special trimming needs, please, call a farrier. If you are unfamiliar with the parts of the hoof you can go to my “Hoof Parts” page.

Tools of the Trade

Hoof Pick-a curved metal instrument used to clean out hooves

Hoof Knife-a knife designed to help remove excess sole from the hoof

Nippers-tool used for cutting hoof

Rasp-file type tool used to remove excess hoof wall and smooth rough edges

Yes there are other tools out there to use on your horse, but these are the basics for a good trim.  I also recommend a pair of good gloves.  Your hoof knife should be very sharp, and a good pair of gloves may save you some blood if your knife should  happen to slip.

Clean Hooves

To start you need to clean out your horse’s hooves with a hoof pick.  To do this you pick up your horse’s foot and hold it with one hand while picking it out with the other.  Starting at the back work your way forward and out, picking out all the loose dirt and manure from around the frog and off the sole of the hoof.

Remove Excess Sole

Using your hoof knife cut away excess layers of the sole and any excess frog.  You want to clean away so you can see clean, bright tissue.  Don’t trim the frog too deep.  You just want to cut off any lose or ragged pieces.  The frog should actually almost touch the ground when a trim is done.  Also using your hoof knife cut the bars of the hoof level with the sole. 


Now that the hoof is pretty well cleaned out, you can start to trim.  Some people will say to start your trim at the toe and move back to the heels, while others will say to start at the inside heel and move down to the toe and back up the outside.  Really just start where you are most comfortable starting.  Try to keep your nippers level with the sole and move straight around the hoof.  You don’t want to trim the hooves too short.  If you leave a little extra length, you can easily shorten the hooves up with the rasp. When you are finished check your work and make sure both sides are the same.  Also while using the nippers don’t worry too much a jagged edges the nippers may leave or slightly uneven cuts.  Your rasp will take care of those.  Rasping

Rasping is the finishing touch to your trim.  Some people may think it’s not necessary, but it is.  It helps prevent splits in the hoof.  Also hooves that are not rasped can be very sharp, which could hurt another horse.

Have your horse stand on level ground and see where his hooves may be uneven.  Start  by picking up the hoof and rasp the bottom.  Hold your rasp flat against the bottom of the hoof and work to get the hoof level.  You can use the edge of the rasp to check your progress.  Once the bottom is smooth and level. You will work on the sides and front of the hoof.  We use a stand to place our horses’ hooves on. It just makes the job a little easier, but I’ve seen people use their leg to balance the hoof.  Our stand is hand made out of an old planter packer wheel and a piece of pipe with a little flat piece of scrap iron welded on the top.  When rasping the outside of the hoof run your rasp straight down towards the ground. I like to put a nice roll on the front of my horses’ hooves to help prevent cracks and splits.  At this time you will also want rasp off any flare your horse may have on his hooves.Trimming your horses’ hooves on your own can save you big bucks if you do it correctly.  You may want to watch a farrier a couple of times to see how he trims your horse before you just go out and start nipping away.  Incorrect trimming can put your horse in pain or can make him lame.  I find if you are unsure ask for help from someone who knows what they are doing.