How To Clean Horse Hooves Properly

cleaning horse hoove

Cleaning your horse’s hooves is an essential part of horse care.  It needs to be done frequently for many different reasons. 

 With the shape of the hooves, it is very easy to pick up debris that can injure their foot.

Why You Should Clean Your Horse Hooves

The two clefts beside the frog and the concave shape of a horse’s hooves can easily pick up debris.  When you clean their hooves, you may pick out pine cones, rocks, and twigs.  Although the pine cones might cause any damage, the twigs and rocks sure can. If they accidentally pick up bits of wire, nails, glass, or other sharp objects, they can cause bruising or pierce the sole. 

If your horse suddenly becomes lame, clean out their hooves and look for a bruise, foreign object, or puncture that could have caused this problem. Soil or manure that is left in the hoof can cause a dirty, damp environment that makes a great place for thrush to start.  If you keep the hoof clean, it can help to prevent this from happening.  Once thrush has set in, you will have to clean the hooves often to keep it from getting worse.

When you clean the horse hooves, it will also give you a chance to see if they need to be trimmed or the shoes need to be reset.  At this time you will also be able to know if the shoe is loose. You will also be able to notice other issues like soles that are changing, separated laminae, or heels that are contracted or getting shallow.  When cleaning horse hooves, you should assess the health of their foot.

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How To Clean Horse Hooves Properly

  • Tie your horse safely using crossties.  They are safer because they will keep you away from walls and posts that you could be knocked into if your horse acts up.
  • Most will start on the right side.  To make it easier, your horse should be taught to willingly lift its foot.  You can cue your horse to do this by tapping on the horse while others will lightly pinch just above the pastern joint, along the tendon at the back.  
  • Once the horse picks its foot up, you should support it in your non-dominate hand with the dominant hand handling the pick.  
  • Use the hoof pick to clear out matted straw or hay, manure, dirt, and any other debris, working from the heel to the toe.  Make sure that you are paying close attention to the frog.
  • Use a stiff brush to brush away the bits of chaff or dust.  Try to find a stiff brush with attached hoof picks to make this easier.  You may consider getting an illuminated hoof pick to get a good look at the areas that are hard to see if the light is not good.
  • Clean off the sole and gently pick around the area of the hoof.  Do this to just inside of the hoof wall.  This is the white line and you do not want to jab into this area as it is softer than the rest of the hoof.  This area can be an entry point or things like small stones or grit so you want to make sure that you get it out gently without hurting the horse.  These have to come out as they could lead to the white line or seedy toe disease.
  • The frog is also softer than the actual hoof and more sensitive so make sure that in this area you do not pick too aggressively.
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horse hoove e1590591677442

How Often Should You Clean Horse Hooves?

You should make sure that this is part of your daily routine when you are taking care of your horse.  The regular attention to their hooves contributes greatly to their hoof health.  If later in the day, you are going for a ride, you should always check their hooves to make sure they have not picked up anything, and then when you return you should check again.  Yes, this seems like a lot of checking but it is necessary for their horse hooves health.  

If they are out in the pasture all day and come into the barn or stables, you should take time to check their hooves then.  In the morning, you should check the pulse and heat, remove any manure, and check for thrust.

What To Check For After Cleaning Horse Hooves

1. Thrush

This is the first sign of a bacterial infection.  It has dark ooze from the cleft of the frog and has a foul smell.  In the early stages, you can use an over-the-counter remedy that is recommended by your veterinarian or farrier.  Make sure that you keep their stall dry and clean as this is caused by prolonged standing in wet, filthy conditions, mud, or manure.  

2. Puncture

 Sometimes a nail or something pierces the horse’s sole and falls out so you will not see an entry wound until an abscess forms.  If it is still in there, do not pull it out but wrap it to protect the foot and to keep it in there and call your veterinarian to take care of it.  The veterinarian may take an x-ray to see how far it has penetrated the area.  They will then advise a course of treatment

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girl and her horse

3. Cracks

Some of the cracks are superficial but others can be worse, especially if without appropriate shoeing.  One cause could be a hoof abscess.  If you notice a crack in the hoof, you should call your farrier to see if it can wait until the next shoeing or needs to be taken care of how.


  • Cleaning your horse hooves should be a part of your daily routine and anytime the horse comes in from the pasture or back from a ride.
  • Always check their hooves to see if there are any issues like cracks, thrush, etc and let your veterinarian know so the proper treatment can be started.
  • You should also check their shoes at this time.