Back when horses were the primary mode of transportation, the farrier and blacksmith were one in the same. They were the ones who made the horseshoes and shod the horses. Today, farriers are artisans of hoof care, skillfully adjusting and adapting horse shoes when needed, cleaning away debris, and helping ensure hoof health. They make the job look easy. Jim Spencer is one of those expert farriers who cares for horses throughout the Umpqua region. We were lucky enough to spend some time with him and get a lesson in cleaning horse hooves.
Jim, who has been a farrier for just over 43 years, says there are three important areas of a hoof to remember. Those include the wall, sole, and frog. The wall is the part of the hoof that is visible when the horse is standing. Inside that is the sole. The frog is the triangular piece at the back of the hoof.
Hoof Cleaning 101
Jim really does make cleaning hooves look easy.
“I’ve been doing this for a living since I got out of high school,” he said with a chuckle.
As he explained during our day with him, cleaning hooves doesn’t have to be tough. The first step is to put a halter on your horse and secure it.
Starting with the left-front leg, stand beside the horse’s shoulder and face the tail. Then, run your hand down the leg and grab the hair at the ankle. This should prompt your horse to lift his leg for you. If your horse doesn’t automatically raise its hoof, lift the leg with light pressure.
Now, hold the foot in your left hand and use your hoof pick in the right. Start cleaning away the debris found inside the wall of the hoof. Be careful not to cause any damage. Check the frog for discharge or any health issues. The frog should be firm to the touch.
Coastal tip: If you’re left-handed, it’s okay to hold the hoof with your right hand and clean with your left.
If your horse is wearing shoes, check for loose or missing nails. Also look for any nails that may be protruding from the side or top of the hoof wall.
Repeat with each hoof then apply the proper conditioner for the time of year. If it’s winter, apply an anti-fungal conditioner. In the summer, you want one that includes a moisturizer that will prevent cracking and improve hoof health.
Care for Your Equine at Coastal
You’ll find hoof picks as well as bags of hoof guard, conditioners, and a full line of tack at your Northwest owned and operated Coastal Farm & Ranch. Look for saddles too, with great prices from manufacturers like Crates, Fabtron, Billy Cook, Alamo Saddlery, Tucker, Circle Y, JT International, and Buffalo Leather.