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How to Pick Up

a Horse's Hoof without

hurting you or the horse

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Picking up a Horse's Hoof
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

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

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 as requested.

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 strike.

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… turn around
and take a bite at your rear!

Visit to view other
articles pertaining to horse care.

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
Copyright © 2004 AlphaHorse. All Rights Reserved.

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