As a horse owner, basic horsemanship obligates you to clean your equine companion’s hooves often. It’s a very crucial part of his grooming. You need to clean his hooves both prior to and after riding so as to safeguard them from bruising from rocks and debris. In addition, regular cleaning and inspection of a horse’s hooves makes it easier to detect any abnormalities like unusual odors, cracking, bruising or loose shoes early before they can cause further damage.
Follow the steps below to help you pick your horse’s hooves perfectly:
- Before starting the cleaning process, always make sure that the horse has been safely haltered and tied, or that you have somebody holding him for you.
- Before you pick up your horse’s feet for cleaning, stand next to his hip/shoulder facing toward his tail. Put your own feet together and turn them away from his so as to avoid him stepping on your toes accidentally in case he decides to bring down his foot unexpectedly.
- Signal to your horse that you want him to pick up his foot by running your hand down his leg. Occasionally, you may also have to encourage him to pick up his foot by gently leaning against him to add some weight on him.
- Train your horse to understand verbal cues such as "hoof up" and "pick up" so that you can ask him to pick up his foot.
- While the horse lifts his foot, offer him some support by holding his leg at the pastern or the coronary band, located just above the foot, or hold him just under the hoof itself.
- Use a hoof-pick to clean out any pieces of sticks, stones or other dirt from around the foot’s frog (i.e. the fleshy “triangle” found on the bottom of the foot) ,as well as the area where the hoof-sole joins the hoof-wall. If he has his shoes on, gently trace around the inside of the shoes and check for and remove any stuck pebbles.
- After cleaning, gently set the hoof down. Don’t let him do this himself in case it accidentally hits your toes. Be more patient with older, arthritic or geriatric horses’ hooves.
- Repeat the same procedure on his other three hooves.
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