Picking Up A Horse's Hoof
- By Jeffrey Rolo
The idea of picking up a horse's hooves can
intimidate some owners since a well-placed horse kick
would really hurt! Such caution is good, but in
reality if you pick up a horse's hoof properly you
provide him with no leverage or ability to kick you.
This is a situation where a person's worst fears can
cause him to imagine an incident that is highly
unlikely to occur with careful handling.
Here's how to safely pick up a horse's hoof:
Starting with the front hoof, approach your horse
diagonally from his front so that he clearly knows
you are there you don't want to surprise him.
Place yourself even with his shoulder and make sure
to face his rear; you will both be facing opposite
directions during the hoof picking process.
Making sure that your feet aren't too close to the
horse's hoof, start running the hand parallel to him
down his shoulder and along the length of his leg,
finally stopping just above his ankle. Gently grasp
the ankle portion and click (or otherwise verbally
cue him) to ask him to raise his leg. If he's well
trained, that small cue will be more than enough and
he'll do just what you requested. You're now free to
begin picking his hoof.
If your horse is being a bit stubborn or hasn't
learned how to pick up his legs yet try leaning into
his shoulder as you run your hand down the back of
his cannon bone. You can also gently squeeze/pinch
the tendons to further cue him to what you would
like. As you perform these physical cues make sure
you provide a verbal one also (I make a clicking
sound) so the horse later associates your sound with
the requested response. Increase the weight you push
against his shoulder until he finally lifts his leg
When picking a horse's hoof you want to remove all
debris from the hoof clefts as well as the rim and
frog. Be careful around the frog because it can
sometimes be a bit sensitive, particularly if the
horse has thrush.
Once you have finished cleaning the front hoof
carefully guide it back to the floor; you don't want
to allow the horse to slam it, potentially hitting
your foot in the process. Praise your horse and pat
him on the front shoulder a bit so he understands
that you are pleased with his cooperation, then run
your hand along his back to his rear leg. Place
yourself in the same position as you did with his
front leg and do the process over again.
There is a slight difference between lifting a rear
foot and front foot, even though your basic
positioning and actions are nearly identical. When
you lift your horse's rear foot he will probably give
a little jerk that you might misinterpret as a kick.
This is a common reflex reaction among horses and
nothing for you to worry about.
Secondly, when you raise your horse's rear leg you'll
want to step into him a bit so that your hip is
underneath his leg. Rest his leg on your thigh, grab
his hoof and gently flex it upwards. By doing this
you lend him some support and more importantly the
position of his leg and his flexed hoof will prevent
him from being able to kick you.
Clean the hoof, lower it cautiously as you did the
first and praise him. Congratulations you're
halfway done! The opposite side will be done exactly
the same way, but try to return to his front and
start the opposite side rather than move around his
rear. It's bad practice to approach or circle all but
the most trusted horses via the rear in such close
quarters since a horse would be within range to
When lifting any hoof try to make sure your horse is
properly squared (balanced evenly on all four legs)
so that when you lift one hoof he can easily balance
on his remaining three. At no time should the horse
actually lean his weight on you! Even when you rest
his rear leg on your thigh you're not allowing him to
use you as a crutch.
Once you have picked your horse's hooves a few times
it will probably become very simple and take less
than 5 minutes to clear all hooves. Most trained
horses will raise their hoof for you the moment they
feel your leg run down their leg.
It is a very good idea to control your horse's head
while you are picking his hooves. This can be done by
attaching his halter to crossties or asking a partner
hold your horse's head. By controlling his head you
ensure your horse can't move away from you while
you're trying to pick his hooves, or worse
around and take a bite at your rear!
Jeffrey Rolo, owner of AlphaHorse and an experienced
horse trainer and breeder, is the author of the above
article. You will find many other informational
articles dealing with horse training and care as well
as games and other horse fun on his website: http://www.alphahorse.com.
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