Of course horses are dangerous, even the sweet lovable horses. They are big and sometimes clumsy and can step on you by accident. So be careful. Also you have to be careful not to injure the horse’s hoof by cutting wrong. Not everyone will want to trim their horse’s hooves. So only try this if you feel confident. Some horses are kept on rocky ground and will wear their hooves down fine. But most horses kept by people need to have their hooves trimmed.
You need to know how to pick up a horse’s foot safely.
You need to practice on an easy to manage horse.
You need to watch a professional farrier work.
You need to know what a hoof should look like.
You need hoof nippers, hoof rasp and hoof pick.
Look at the hooves as the horse is standing square. Most horses wear the heel down more than the toe because the toe hoof wall is twice as thick as the heel so the toe will probably be too long. Some horses have a slightly crooked pastern which will cause one side of the hoof to be too long. A healthy hoof is straight walled. A foundered horse will have a rippled hoof wall and or curled up toe.
If the hoof is inches too long it will take several cuts with the nippers because the nippers can only cut half an inch at a time.
Pick up the hoof and look at the sole of the hoof. The sole flakes off in layers so there might be some shreds of old sole still attached. You can use a hoof pick to flake off loose sole flakes. I don’t use a hoof knife to trim the sole. I figure a bare foot horse needs a thick sole.
Notice that the hoof wall extends beyond the sole. I trim a hoof according to the sole. I usually nip the hoof wall half and inch long at the sides of the hoof. I might trim the toe even with the sole. Then make sure the plane of the bottom of the hoof is flat by sighting along the bottom of the hoof. Rasp the bottom of the hoof wall flat and smooth. Best to have too long a hoof than to cut too short. The bars turn in and lie along the frog and sometimes need to be trimmed.
The white line is the laminae that hold the hoof wall to the inner structure of the hoof. It should be about and eighth of an inch thick. If the horse has had laminitis the white line will be stretched wider at the toe and the laminae will be visible. When the laminae are visible they are vulnerable to attack by bacteria and the condition is called white line disease.
I don’t rasp the outside of the hoof wall. I see some people rasping the hoof wall to make a sick hoof with ripples look well. I don’t like to weaken a hoof wall by rasping it. If the hooves are trimmed and the horse is kept from foundering again, the hoof will grow out healthy in a year.
If the toe is too long after trimming I sometimes nip a little of the toe at a 45 degree angle just at the toe to give the horse a faster breakover when striding.
My horses hooves are as hard as iron in our hot dry summers. It is easier to trim if the horse has been standing on moist ground.
Most horses kept on soft ground need their hooves trimmed every few months. If you learn to trim your own horse it reduces the cost of keeping a horse and might develop into a job for others.