Skip to content
back to home

Routine hoof care

Providing daily care and attention to horse’s hooves helps keep them in a healthy condition and allows you to take prompt action if needed to prevent deterioration. The care needed varies across the year as the hoof copes with the different weather conditions.

  • Last reviewed: 3rd February 2023
Pic 43 Caption Excess Hoof Is Trimmed With The Hoof Cutters. Pic 43 Caption Excess Hoof Is Trimmed With The Hoof Cutters.

Horses’ hooves are complex, weight-bearing structures that carry the whole horse. Looking after your horse’s hooves is incredibly important. Keeping them healthy with regular attention from a farrier, helps to prevent any problems and keep the hooves in optimum condition.

For specific advice regarding donkeys visit The Donkey Sanctuary website


Hooves should be even and in proportion to the rest of the horse. Usually, the front feet are slightly larger than the hind due to bearing more weight. As a guide the hoof should slope at approximately 45 degrees when on a flat, even surface and this angle should also match the pastern1.
The hoof wall should be free from any cracks. If there are lines present this could indicate previous cases of laminitis or poor nutrition. Lines would occur horizontally across the wall and often would not be parallel to the coronary band. Poor hoof conformation can lead to issues such as tripping, strains, bruising and cracks occurring. If the horse’s conformation isn’t ideal, your farrier may be able to use remedial shoeing or alternative methods to help improve or resolve the problem (depending on the severity) over a period of time. Early intervention is most likely to result in a positive outcome.

Daily Care

Whether a horse is stable-or field-kept, routinely picking feet out at least once a day ensures good hygiene and monitoring. Check feet for any stones, debris, cracks and splits during this process. If shod, check shoes for wear and tear as well as raised clenches (nails that hold the shoe in place).

Picking out hooves

It’s important to remain safe when picking feet out for both you and the horse. Make sure that the horse is safely tied up or held by a helper.
Make sure the horse is aware of what you’re doing. Facing towards the horse’s tail, run your closest hand down their body and then down the leg before trying to lift the foot. Most horses happily pick their foot up as a hand is run down their leg with the simple command “up”. Sometimes they may need a little encouragement by squeezing gently just above the fetlock joint. Holding the leg any higher may make the foot move around, making the job harder. To minimise the risk of a bash if the horse unexpectedly pulls his leg back, hold the front foot with your arm across the back of the leg and round the inside of the foot. The back foot is best held with the arm across the front of the leg and round the inside of the foot. This way, the horse’s leg will move away from you, not towards you, if the foot is suddenly put down.
Horse rider picking out hooves
Hold the foot firmly with the hoof pick in your free hand. Moving the hoof pick from heel to toe, scrape any dirt and debris out of the hoof, taking care around the sensitive frog. Keep the point of the hoof pick facing away from your body so that if your hand slips, the sharp bit moves away from you. It’s important to remove dirt thoroughly from all areas of the foot to avoid an unpleasant bacterial infection called thrush. Pay attention to the deep channels either side of the frog and at the heels under the ends of the shoe where it’s easy for fragments to become trapped.
It's a good idea to pick the feet out into a skip or flat bucket, especially in the stable, to avoid dirt and stones going into the bedding or even straight back into the horse’s feet. If grooming outside, this saves you from having to sweep the yard afterwards.


The environment can also affect the health of horse’s feet. The hoof wall will naturally expand in wet conditions and contract when dry2. A topical hoof dressing applied year-round will help to promote a more even moisture content and help to protect against seasonal fluctuations. Your farrier will be able to advise if this would be beneficial and which product is most suitable.


Diet can directly impact the horse’s hooves. Feeding a balanced high forage diet will ensure that vitamins and minerals are obtained, allowing healthy hoof growth.

Biotin is often fed as a supplement to horses with poor hoof quality. Research has shown that this vitamin (B7) contributes to strong bonds within the hoof wall tissues therefore improving the quality of the feet3. Biotin naturally occurs in grass and if feeding a balanced diet, the horse should be obtaining the required amount. However, horses that have excess weight gain are at risk of laminitis and therefore will need a more controlled diet - grazing restricted and may require a balancer feed to make sure they are receiving a balanced diet. Underweight horses, or horses not getting their vitamin and mineral requirement, are at risk of growing weaker hoof wall tissue which is prone to cracking and splitting and may therefore benefit from a biotin supplement. Speak with your farrier for advice specific to the requirements of your horse.

Activity and exercise

Horses would naturally cover a great distance whilst roaming each day. This movement is essential in creating healthy hooves. The feet are key in circulating blood back up the leg, meaning that the more the horse moves, the better the blood supply to the hoof. When horses are stabled for long periods of time it’s important they’re exercised regularly to improve circulation and encourage healthy hoof growth. This could be turning out in a menage, taking them for a walk, lungeing or ridden exercise.

Keeping a clean environment

It’s important to make sure that a horse always has a clean, dry place to stand whether they’re turned out or stabled. Prolonged exposure to wet or dirty conditions can cause infections of the hoof. Make sure that stables are regularly mucked out and that fields have a hard standing area or grass matts.

The role of the farrier

Choosing a farrier is vital for making sure horse welfare is maintained. Hooves must be kept in good balance with correct trimming and shoeing – any mistakes can have detrimental effects to the horse’s health.
Farriers will be able to best advise on whether a horse will need shoes or not. This will be based on many factors including the horse’s workload, type of work, clinical history together with the surface(s) worked on, condition of hooves and management of the horse. Your farrier will also be able to advise an appropriate trimming or shoeing cycle, which can vary but is usually every 4-6 weeks for shod horses and sometimes longer for barefoot horses.
To find a registered farrier in your area, visit the Farriers Registration Council.
If you’re ever concerned for your horse or they’re showing signs of being uncomfortable it’s important to seek the advice of your vet as soon as possible.
Supported by Nigel Brown AWCF on behalf of the British Farriers and Blacksmiths Association. 


1.Thomas, C. (2022) Hoof Care: Keeping Your Horse’s Feet in Tip Top Condition.

2.Stewart, J. (2013) Understanding the Horses Feet.

3.Kentucky Equine Research. (2011) Nutrition Affects Hoof Growth in Horses.

Get in touch - we're here to help

The Horse Care and Welfare Team are here to help and can offer you further advice with any questions you may have. Contact us on 02476 840517* or email – You can also get in touch with us via our social media channels.

Opening times are 8:35am -5pm from Monday –Thursday and 8:35am -3pm on Friday.

*Calls may be recorded for monitoring purposes.