How to Trim Horse Hooves

Three Parts:Getting ReadyTrimming The HoofImproving Your Trimming Sessions

Trimming your horses hooves is a great way to connect with your horse and help keep them healthy. Trimming the hooves of a horse can be simple in theory but it may require practice and many short trimming sessions before you become comfortable doing so. Start working with your horse in short sessions as you both become comfortable with the hoof trimming process.

Part 1
Getting Ready

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    Gather your tools. Before you get started you will need to collect the tools required for trimming a horses hooves. These tools will all serve a different function and all are required to properly clean and trim your horse's hooves. Make sure you have the following equipment:[1]
    • Gloves to protect your hand and fingers as you work.
    • Hoof nippers will be used for the actual trimming of the hoof.
    • A rasp is used to level off any rough areas of the hoof.
    • A hook knife can help you dig out any material that is caught in your horse's hoof.
    • Farrier chaps are optional but can offer protection to your legs while trimming your horse's hooves.
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    Soak the hooves. Hard, dry hooves are extremely difficult to trim and attempting to do so will only frustrate both you and your horse. Before you trim the hooves make sure to soak them in water, making them much easier to work with.[2]
    • Have your horse soak their feet in water or mud for around 15 to 20 minutes.
    • If you live in a dry location, bring a spray water bottle with you and moisten the hooves as you work.
    • If the hooves dry out during the trimming process, take a break and soak them again.
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    Clean the hooves. Before you start trimming the hooves you will need to make sure they are clean. This allows you to get the best view of the hoof and will inform your of which areas need the most attention. Use your hook knife to remove any dirt or other material that may have become lodged within the hoof.[3]
    • Hold the knife with the blade pointing downwards, opposite to how you would hold a steak knife.
    • Keep your wrist straight and use your whole arm to make your strokes.
    • The hook knife can also be used to cut away areas of the frog if it has grown across the sole.[4]

Part 2
Trimming The Hoof

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    Know the parts of the hoof. Before you start trimming your horse's hooves you should learn the parts of the hoof. Learning the parts of the hoof will help you to know which areas of the hoof need to be trimmed, how they should look, and how best to trim them.[5]
    • The outer hoof line and wall surrounds the exterior of the hoof.
    • The sole of the hoof is the entire area inside of the outer hoof wall.
    • The white line is just inside the outer hoof line.
    • The frog makes up a large portion of the hoof, starting at the heel and ending in a point at the center of hoof.
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    Determine how much needs to be trimmed. After your horse's hoof has been fully cleaned and soaked, you will be able to assess which areas need trimming and how best to trim them. Each hoof will be different every time you go to trim them. Carefully look over your horses hoof and decide your best course of action.
    • Look for areas that are cracked that might need to be trimmed.
    • Judge how long the the outer hoof wall is.
    • Decide if the front of the hoof will need to be trimmed.
    • See if the outside hoof wall is asymmetrical in any areas.
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    Get in position. Using the proper position when trimming your horse's hooves can help both you and your horse to be more comfortable during the process. Holding your horse's hooves correctly can also allow you greater control over the hoof and let you get the hoof as level and well shaped as possible. Always use the proper position when trimming your horse's hooves.[6]
    • Hold the front leg by lifting it up and back, towards the horse's chest. Rest the hoof on your thigh.
    • Lift the back leg directly up and place your own leg in front of it. Bend over and reach down to work with the hoof.
    • When lifting the horses leg up, always make sure it is bending with the natural motion of that joint.
    • Don't try to lift the hoof if the horse isn't cooperating.
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    Trim the hoof. To trim the hoof you will use your nippers. Nippers are similar to large nail clippers for your horse's hooves. The nippers are used to remove excess length in the outer hoof wall. Using the nippers is a good way to quickly remove parts of the hoof, roughly shaping it before finely trimming the remaining areas.[7]
    • Place the clippers on any long areas of the outer hoof wall.
    • Clamp the clippers down to cut the long areas of the hoof wall away.
    • Work slowly and make sure you are trimming to the length you need.
    • Trim the front of the hoof at a 45 degree angle to avoid a sharp toe.
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    Rasp the hoof. As you clean and trim your horses hooves, they may become unleveled or rough in some areas. The rasp is a steel file that is used to correct any unleveled areas of your horses hoof. Dragging the rasp across the hoof will remove some of the hoof with the stroke. Use your rasp to file down any leftover rough areas or spots that your nippers might be too large for.[8]
    • Don't rasp both heels at the same time as this can cause them to become uneven.
    • Keep your strokes short at first until you gain more control and have more practice rasping.
    • Keep your strokes as flat as possible in order to keep your horse's hoof flat.
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    Trim the sole of the hoof. After you have leveled the outer wall of the horses hoof, you will need to trim the sole of the hoof down until it is below the outer wall. This will help keep pressure on the outer wall of the hoof rather than on the sensitive inner sole.[9]
    • The outer wall of the hoof should be longer than the sole.
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    Check the hoof. After you have cleaned the hoof, trimmed it, and made sure it was level you will want to look over the hoof one last time. This will be a final check to make sure any problematic areas have been dealt with, that the hoof has been fully cleaned, and that your horses step is level.[10]
    • Check for symmetry in the hoof.
    • Try to make the hoof even on all sides.
    • The bottom of the horses outer hoof wall should be flat.

Part 3
Improving Your Trimming Sessions

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    Consider taking a course. If you are interested in learning how to trim and care for your horse's hooves on your own you might want to consider taking an instructional course. These courses can help you learn the parts of a horse's hoof, how to clean them, and the best ways to keep them trimmed evenly and safely.
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    Know when to hire a professional. There are some cases where it might be better to hire a professional to trim your horses hooves, rather than attempt to do it by yourself. Hiring a professional can reduce the risk of harm to your horse during the trimming and get your horse's hooves a perfect trim.[11]
    • If your horse has an injury or health issue with a hoof, you should hire a professional.
    • If your horse has unusual or uneven growth patterns to its hoof, a professional can work to make sure your horses hoof is even.
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    Work slowly and carefully. It may be tempting to try and trim all of your horse's hooves in one session but taking breaks and coming back to the task can be a better idea. If you are just learning how to trim your horse's hooves the process can be stressful and tough on both you and your horse. By taking breaks you can still get practice and make the task as enjoyable as it can be for both of you.[12]
    • If you are new to trimming your horse's hooves, try trimming only two per session. Trim either the front two or the rear two.
    • If you get tired or annoyed while trimming your horse's hooves take a break and come back to it later.
    • Never lose your patience with your horse. If your horse views this as an unpleasant experience, it will be less willing in the future to cooperate.


  • Always soak your horse's hooves before trimming
  • Don't be afraid to take breaks.
  • Work slowly whenever you are trimming your horse's hooves.


  • If your horse has a health issue involving its hooves, consult a professional.

Things You'll Need

    • Gloves
    • Nippers
    • Rasp
    • Hoof knife
    • (Optional) Farrier chaps
    • Hoof stand

Article Info

Categories: Horse Grooming