Items you should find in any well-stocked hoof-care box
Deb Simone goes through the same hoof-care routine before every ride on her Trakehner-Hanoverian cross mare, Lovey: She uses a hoof pick to remove debris from the mare’s feet, and then she applies hardener to each hoof wall. Simone believes this simple ritual is critical to keeping Lovey’s hooves free of cracks, splits, and the infection-causing microbes that love to set up shop within them. She also believes this ounce of prevention is cheaper than the added veterinarian and farrier visits that become necessary if Lovey’s feet are neglected.
“I’ve had so much trouble with her feet in the past, I just try to pay attention to them,” Simone says.
But even she admits that her cache of hoof-care tools is probably lacking.
“The hoof hardener and the pick are about all I have,” she says. “I know there must be other things I should have on hand.”
In fact, most horse owners do not have a kit specifically dedicated to hoof care, says Dave Farley, CF, immediate past president of the American Association of Professional Farriers, who shoes sport horses around Coshocton, Ohio.
“In the old days, everyone had a hoof box, but now most people don’t,” Farley says. “Fortunately, people are getting back to at least having (a community hoof box) in their (boarding) barns, and that’s good for the horse.”
That’s because regular hoof care is key to a horse’s general health, says Tracy Turner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, of the Minnesota-based practice Turner Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery. His research focuses on the connection between performance and equine podiatry.
“If you’re a jumper you land on it; if you’re a racehorse it propels you,” says Turner of hooves. “There are 100 cliches, but it’s true: No foot, no horse.”
Fortunately, keeping a horse’s feet clean and in good condition is not complicated, he says. All it takes is some time, know-how, and a well-stocked hoof-care box. Here’s what Turner, Farley, and other professionals recommend owners keep in it.
The Essential Ingredients
A hoof pick Available from just about any tack or farm supply store, a serviceable hoof pick can be had for between $1.99 and $3.99; higher-end ones run as much as $20. Hoof picks are intended to do just that: pick or remove all manner of debris, including sand, pebbles, and even bits of wood or glass, that horses pick up roaming pastures, navigating trails, or performing in arenas. Though using a hoof pick seems like a no-brainer, some horse owners don’t know how to use one properly, says Jeannean Mercuri, New York-based professional trimmer and member of the American Hoof Association.
Mercuri says most owners use a hoof pick to knock out loose clumps of manure and dirt that accumulate in a horse’s hoof. But there’s much more to it than that, she says.
“People usually don’t go deep enough when cleaning,” Mercuri says. “You want to get everything—sand, small stones—out of that hoof.”
She also warns against spending too little on this simple but indispensable device. That’s because cheaper picks are made of softer-quality metal, rendering them impractical for everyday use.
“As a result, people use the pick, and the metal bends, and they think, ‘Oh no! I’ve pressed too hard,’ when that’s probably not the case.”
The must-have hoof box components? A quality hoof pick and brush.
Photo: Alexandra Beckstett/The Horse
Similarly, Farley recommends avoiding cheap plastic-handled hoof picks that come with an attached brush.
“I would rather see a quality hoof pick with a handle, period,” he says. “Besides, the really cheap ones wear out really fast.”
A hoof brush Another simple but critical tool in the hoof-care box—a hoof brush—helps sweep away debris loosened or missed by the hoof pick. These brushes are composed of stiff synthetic PVC bristles. In addition to cleaning the horse’s hoof, careful brushing gives owners a chance to examine the animal’s feet from heel to toe, says Farley.
“After you use the pick to clean every part of the sole and every side of the hoof, brush the sides of the frog and then brush the sole so that you can see all the debris that might be in the hoof,” he says. “Work forward from the (heel) bulb.”
Likewise, Farley advises owners to invest in a quality free-standing hoof brush.
“If you get a good one, you’re only going to have to buy one,” he says.
In any case, a thorough hoof cleaning is well worth the time it takes to do it. “It keeps the hoof clean, and it gives you a chance to examine the hoof and find things before they become big issues,” Turner says. “You don’t have to make a science project out of it, just do it regularly.”