How to Shoe a Horse

Illustrations by Kevin Hand

Wild horses, which can cover up to twenty miles a day, wouldn’t think of having their hooves done, but leave it to humans to change all that. “When we domesticated the animal, ten thousand years ago, we restricted its movement,” says John Burgin, the owner of the Texas Horse-shoeing School, in Scurry. “Now their feet need protection, just like a person’s.” Optimal maintenance includes regular inspection and cleaning; reshoeing should be done only every six to eight weeks. Before grooming, securely tie your horse up, then run your hand down his leg to alert him to square up on the other three. Squeeze the tendon above the ankle, lift the hoof, and begin your pony’s pedicure.

1. First clean out any compacted dirt, mud, and manure with a curved tool called a hoof pick. Work from heel to toe with downward strokes, but take care around the frog (the sensitive triangle in the middle of the hoof’s underside).

2. The front of the hoof wall should measure between 3 inches and 3 3/4 inches from the hairline down. If it is too long, cut the excess off with a set of nippers. Keeping the blades parallel to the bottom of the hoof, start at the right heel and work toward the middle of the toe, trimming evenly. Repeat from the left heel.

3. Use a rasp, which looks like an enormous Microplane grater,to file the hoof until it is level.

4. Place the shoe on the hoof wall and drive a nail into each hole. (The nail should go in at an angle and poke through the front of the wall.) With the nippers, clip the ends of the nails. Then clinch down the metal. Finally, use the rasp to smooth out any rough edges. “You should be able to run panty hose over the hoof with no snags,” Burgin says.

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