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hoof cleaning

From: Micheline

Dear Jessica,

I've been reading Horse Sense for some months now and thoroughly enjoy it. (although the big plus is that I learn a lot!). My horse and I both thank you.

My question in about hoof cleaning. Currently I co-own a three year old quarter horse. I've always cleaned a hoof the same way: stand next to the hoof I want to clean and pick it up. I recently saw someone pick up a horse's left forefoot, clean it, then reach under the horse and pick up the right forefoot to clean it while remaining positioned on the horse's left side. Is this considered an acceptable method? I've never seen anyone else do this. When I asked about it, I was told that it's common practice and economical in the sense of not having to move around so much. I feel uncomfortable about doing this but as it's the co-owner of my horse that wants to use this method, I decided to get more information before getting into an unnecessary argument about it. What do you think? Any feedback would be appreciated.



Hi Micheline - thanks for the kind words, I'm glad you're enjoying HORSE-SENSE.

You can clean a horse's feet either way, walking around from one side to the other and cleaning each hoof in turn, or you can stay on one side of the horse and reach across to clean the feet on the other side. It comes down to what's more comfortable for you and for the horse.

In the USA, racehorses are typically trained to have all four hooves cleaned from a single side. It's practical, really, since racehorses are straight-tied in their stalls, not cross-tied in the barn aisles, and grooms find it fast and efficient to clean all four feet from the horse's near-side... and avoid being pinned between the horse's off-side and the wall. And, as the person you talked with told you, it also saves a bit of time.

My personal preference is to walk around the horse, because grooming and hoof-cleaning are activities that give you a chance to inspect your horse thoroughly, handle it thoroughly, and notice - with eyes and fingers - any injuries: lumps, bumps, scratches, bruises, swellings, lacerations, hot spots all become much easier to notice if you're in a position to look at and touch every part of your horse. Even a very quick hoof-cleaning can tell you a lot, and it will tell you a lot MORE if you walk around your horse while you do it. That way, instead of just the near side, you'll see the horse from all four vantage points: left side, right side, front and back. It increases your chances of noticing problems.

If your horse was raced, or trained for racing, it's probably familiar with the all-four-feet-from-the-near-side method of hoof-cleaning. It's a good idea to get horses used to various styles of handling, so you may want to teach it to accept the walk-around method as well, but once it's comfortable with both methods, which one you use, and which one your horse's co-owner uses, should be up to you... and no, you don't both have to use the same method. ;-)

If your horse was NOT raced or trained for racing, it was most probably taught to expect its left feet to be picked up from the left side and its right feet from the right side, so if the co-owner wants to use a method that's unfamiliar to the horse, it will be a good idea to take the necessary time to make the new method familiar and comfortable.

As long as the horse knows what's going on, and as long as you remember to use the hoofpick from heel to toe, everything should be fine.


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