How to Clean and Buff a Horse's Hooves

Cleaning and buffing a horses hooves for a horse show is a good way to show that you care and take good care of your horse. It also make their hooves look really nice!


  1. Image titled Clean and Buff a Horse's Hooves Step 1
    Get a peice of sandpaper. And get some a bucket of water.
  2. Image titled Clean and Buff a Horse's Hooves Step 2
    Sand off all the gross stuff from your horses hooves with the sand paper. You can also get the blocks for horses to do this but they work the same.
  3. Image titled Clean and Buff a Horse's Hooves Step 3
    Fill your bucket with water and soak the hoof. Or just spray the hoof off with a hose.


  • Do not oil or apply dressing for a couple of days before the show, as this may prevent the polish or varnish from sticking properly.
  • First, pick out the hoof — it saves a muddy mess later! Then scrub the outer hoof wall with a stiff brush and warm water. I don't like to use soap, as it dries the hoof too much. Also do not scrub too hard (or really, mess with at all) the new hoof growth at the coronet band. Focus your efforts on the main hoof wall that's already hard.
  • If I decide it needs sanding, I like to to use the very mildest of sanding blocks. Get the finest grained one you can find. Sand up and down from coronet band to ground while the hoof is still damp. Do not take too much stuff off! Just get rid of any lingering mud, and leave a fine dusting of grit on the surface of the hoof wall. Wipe that off with a damp cloth. Let the hoof dry thoroughly. Understand that with a white hoof you will never get it entirely white. It will always look a little yellow. If you sanded down to new growth, you went too far with the sanding. Use a good hoof conditioner daily, because you just damaged the hoof wall!
  • Be really careful not to sand the periople or coronary band. Just sand the dirty surface from the wall if needed, and try to round off any ridges, cracks or old nail holes to make them less noticeable. Do not get overzealous.
  • Some breed shows prefer you to have the black shoe polish look, in which case use black shoe polish. I like the liquid kind with the sponge applicator. It wears off after a few days of turnout. Opinions vary on whether to paint the stripe of a striped foot black. My sense is that's going out of style a bit, but you still see it.
  • For USEF (United States Equestrian Foundation) shows in Hunter Jumper, eventing or dressage, you really don't want that black shoe polish look. Right now the default setting on the A circuit seems to be Effol hoof polish — the green kind. Stand your horse on concrete or a piece of plywood to apply it, then wait, making the horse stand there until the hoof is dry. If the horse gets dust, mud or muck all over the Effol, it's game over and a huge waste of time and money.
  • There is also the sneaky old trick of using the juice of an onion cut in half — you just rub that on all over the hoof wall and again wait until it dries. I tend to go with that option at non-rated schooling shows and smaller A shows, because it's quicker (you can do it at the gate!) and does less damage. I save the sanding and Effol for when I want my horse to be a 10 among 10s.
  • Appaloosas are not permitted to use hoof polish of any color, other than clear, and even that is frowned upon. Check with your breed registry for specifications and regulations.
  • Hoof oil usually comes in a can with a brush built into the lid, much like a giant nail polish container. Take the brush, with a considerable amount of oil on it, and run it along the coronet band, which is what wraps around the top of the hoof. Try to get it as high as you can without getting any on the fur of their leg. Then, let the excess oil drip down and cover the rest of the hoof on its own. If there's not enough, put more on the coronet band and let it drip down. Then, let dry, and you're ready to go!
  • If you don’t want to polish your horses hooves, rub in some lanolin oil to add extra shine.
  • Before the show, you should trim the hair that meets the hoof with an electric razor so that the hair falls in a straight line. You do not need to trim any portion of hair above a few millimeters of their hooves. This will make a more well-defined line when applying hoof polish. It will also keep the hair from getting in the polish when you apply it and getting lumpy.
  • If you are using black polish, keep alcohol or hoof polish remover on hand for mistakes, especially if your horse is grey/white!
  • Don't get kicked! It hurts.


  • Working with horses is dangerous!You could get kicked!

Sources and Citations

  • my brain

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Categories: Horses