Picking Hooves - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 05-01-2017, 10:51 PM Thread Starter
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Picking Hooves

I've been taking lessons for a few weeks and I'm always concerned that I'm going to hurt the horses feet when I am picking them. When my instructor picks them, she really gets in there and big chunks of mud come out, but I'm afraid to dig that deep and I feel like I'm not doing a good enough job. My question is, how hard are you suppose to dig? Is it easy to hurt the horse? I've been told that the horse I'm riding has big deep hooves (he's a draft mix). Any advice on correct hoof picking?
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post #2 of 11 Old 05-01-2017, 11:19 PM
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You will know if you go too deep if you see white(even then its not terrible though). If it'll make you feel better, go on youtube and watch some videos on trimming a horses hoof. Some of those people are super rough when they trim the frog, and It used to make me nervous. if horses can take that, they certainly can take a little extra oomph from a hoof pick. Also, don't be afraid to ask for help from your instructor, the only way we learn is by asking questions, and trying things out! Good luck!

"Nothing is impossible, The word itself says, Im-Possible!" ~ Audrey Hepburn
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post #3 of 11 Old 05-01-2017, 11:29 PM
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I owned my horse for over a year, started taking lessons at another place on one of their horses.. I had to ask for help picking the horses hoof out- it was so caked with mud and I honestly said I am just afraid of hurting the horse. Trainers response: you'd have to be pretty strong to hurt the horse.

But the reality of it is- I am not familiar with this horses hoof structure, and I find shoed horses feet to be a little harder- I think because the mud can really be packed in there.

I would go over the horses hoof structure- look at photo's so you know the basic layout. Once I find the collateral grooves along the frog, picking the hoof isn't as scary, If it is really caked with mud, I kinda use the side of the metal hoof pick to rub off a chunk of mud more on the outer rim of the bottom of the hoof- somtimes a good chunk will come off and reveal where a groove would be, but if not, then once you scrape to hoof, you can gently pry the mud paddy up some, or manuver your hoof pick to help clear it off- which is a lot less scary then digging. Sometimes if you look in the back of the hoof you can see the edges of where the grooves are.

If its not dried mud, you can brush some with the brush end of the hoofpic if it has one.

Now, if you are unsure of how deep in the grooves you can go- you can kinda just go back and forth with the hoof pic to loosen a bit at a time, or use the brush. If its really caked in tho, the only way to really loosen it may be to pick at it. I always aim to work on the outer side away from the frog if I am unsure. You don't have to get it all in one swipe, even if you just go at it a little at a time, you will eventually get it out ( tho some horses may get impatient, and you can always set the hoof down on your terms, give the horse a short break, and go at it again.)

But I know I am at the end because, quite simply, no more dirt comes out. I use the brush, and look to see if I see dirt. In the end, if you aren't sure, don't go deeper. I am sure you'll be able to notice if there are rocks in the hoof and all. Once you get more comfortable and confident, you'll have an easier time.

Also, there is no shame in asking your trainer to see how you did. Even if they go back and take out a lot more mud, you go back, lift the hoof and take a look for yourself. You can kinda measure with the hoof pick to see how deep it is ( provided you use the same hoof pick) to give yourself a reference point. Once you understand the horses hoof layout, it won't be so scary, and you will be able to pick it out better.

Good luck!
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post #4 of 11 Old 05-02-2017, 02:31 AM
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If a horse can move over rough ground with stones then you are not going to be able to harm its foot with a hoof pick!

With shod horses the mud will pack in harder than with the unshod. I would hold the pick the wrong way around, so that the pick was on the bulbs of my hand that way I could get more pressure to get the point into the corner of the frog and following the angle, scrape down. Often all the impacted mud would come away in one lump.

Always scrape down and work right into the sides of the frog.
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post #5 of 11 Old 05-02-2017, 03:18 AM
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Agree with Foxhunter that you would have a hard time hurting them with a hoof pick. Now if you were to jab their frog or did at that, then it would hurt, because they can feel that part.

Trust me. Where the gelding I ride has had Thrush and there's been mud everywhere, I've been digging out a lot of stuff every time I clean his hooves. I've picked it pretty hard before to get out gunk and little stones, and he didn't even flinch.

Don't worry, they'll let you know if you're hurting them. :)

Don't judge someone's horse or skill because they don't compete or work with a trainer.

Sometimes they're the most in tune with each other.
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post #6 of 11 Old 05-02-2017, 08:00 AM
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I agree with Foxhunter, I hold the pick so the point is pointed away from my hand ( extra leverage that way) and I start at the heel of the hoof and work toward the toe
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post #7 of 11 Old 05-02-2017, 08:28 AM
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You may not have seen a horse get its feet trimmed, but farriers will take their knives and slice portions off of the frog without harming them.

The only time they will be sensitive is if there is a preexisting pathology present that is sensitizing the tissue, or you jam that pick hard down into the central sulcus.
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post #8 of 11 Old 05-02-2017, 08:38 AM
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My trainer always says, the hoofpick feels like fingernails to them.
Now, if you bang the pick on the frog...yes, that'll hurt. That part is very sensitive of course.
But no, for the most part, dig! I also just work my way down, it's a lot easier that way IMO. Then I use the brush part of it to get any excess dirt off.

Ride more, worry less.
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post #9 of 11 Old 05-02-2017, 08:54 AM
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Me? Pick at their hooves?!? Not unless they tell me they have a stone in their foot or something. Or if there is a medical need, but we very rarely (read "never") see thrush. George got an abscess once; tossup who got tired of the footpick routine first, but we were both very happy when it finally resolved. Our farrier cleans them out when he trims, but that's about it. Mine are all barefoot; maybe it's different if they're shod?

But in answer to your question; No; it's dead tissue, and it doesn't hurt them any more than trimming your fingernails hurts you.


Steve Jernigan KG0MB
Microelectronics Research
University of Colorado
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post #10 of 11 Old 05-02-2017, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Sandycat View Post
My question is, how hard are you suppose to dig? Is it easy to hurt the horse?
You will NOT hurt your horse picking his feet out. Don't worry about that.

I was always taught to pick out from frog-to-toe, in that direction. Although sometimes mud gets stuck way up there in the collateral groove and sometimes I'll pick it out backwards to get it all.
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