How to do a Simple Maintenance Hoof Trim

Hello again. I've been harping on the heels of the hoof for long enough. I thought, maybe, that this week, we'd go over a quick, easy maintenance trim of HEALTHY hooves.

With a very well behaved horse, this trim should not take any longer than 20 - 30 mins; if even that. If one is very familiar with the tools, the hooves and what healthy hooves are then even 10 mins and boom, you're done.

Before starting ANY trim, for healthy or for pathological hooves, I ALWAYS assess the horse in motion as well as standing. How do the hooves land; how do they move; does the horse track up; is there any twisting of the hocks or other physical manifestations of imbalance; is the horse equally muscled; does the footfall of the horse sound even and cadenced and solid; how does the horse stop - does it stop squared?  And, more. I also assess behavior to see if there are any behavioral changes in the horse that might indicate any footiness. I notice the muscles and coat pattern for any spasms of the muscles. If I spot a 'signal area' I will then take a closer look at the diagonal leg and hoof. (Muscle spasms will cause the coat to appear a bit 'rough' or even form a new 'whorl' where there wasn't one prior. If a portion of the mane has flipped from one side to the other suddenly then I always assume there is an issue with that side of the horse.)

This all takes place in a matter of a few moments as the horse is being walked into the barn. It will take longer for those who are just starting these observations, of course. Take the time it takes. Noticing and *feeling* "off" steps can reveal alot about the health of the hooves.  It's important to learn how to READ and FEEL the horse and its hooves in order to properly evaluate the hooves.

OK, first step after watching the horse move is to say "hello" to the horse. I will run my fingers lightly over the back and hind quarters as well as through the shoulders to see if there are any sensitive spots. Those spots, too, can indicate hoof issues. Issues in the body will affect the growth and wear patterns of the hooves. Even an imbalanced rider will affect the wear and growth of the hooves.

So, I've said 'hello' to the horse and I then request to clean the hooves. The hooves need to be thoroughly cleaned in order to be able to see and feel the texture of the horn and sole as well as the frog and heel bulbs. Again, this just takes a few moments, not long at all. All the time, though, I'm making mental notes as to my observations.

Once the hooves are cleaned I will then start with the near fore. I will ask the horse to put it on the hoof stand for me and then I will take my rasp at a 90* angle to the wall, in the center of the toe only, and rasp the toe back until I see the laminae sticking to the wall like shredded cheese. I will then rasp around either side of the center to the heels at the same 90* angle, watching the shape of the hoof with relation to the coronary/hairline.

After rasping the wall back I then place the hoof down on the ground and observe the balance of the hoof. Looking at the hairline from the front, (yes, sometimes I will get right down on the ground to view in front of the horse) the hairline should be parallel to the plane of the ground with no dips or waves to it.

(You can see a 'wave' in the coronary band/hairline on this hoof above indicating there is excessive pressure underneath. (The hairline should be 'straight' as indicated by the red line from front to back of hoof.) Follow the horn tubules from the coronary down to the ground to see where the pressure point might be.) 

I then will observe, still from the front, the length of the wall from the hairline to the ground on either side of the hoof. The distance should be equal on both sides indicating the hoof is pretty well balanced medio-laterally (side to side).

Then, going around and looking at the side of the hoof, again at the hairline, the line should be clean with no dips or waves indicating excessive pressure from below. 

If all appears well I then take the hoof between my knees for a good, solar observation.

Is the frog clear of any peeling or tags or other pieces that need to be trimmed off? Is the sole thick and strong?

Are the bars of adequate length and not too long or folding over or curving excessively? Generally speaking, for healthy hooves, they may need just a wee skim to bring down to the level of the sole and coming up to blend in at the heel buttress. Are the heel bulbs of equal size and shape?  If one heel is longer than the other and the shorter heel is of adequate length I will merely rasp the longer heel down to match the shorter then flatten out either side.

If the heels are overgrown then I will trim them down to proper length (you want at least an inch of depth of collateral groove under the seat of corn for good heel length.)

My final step is to bevel the wall at 45* angle all round, from heel to heel, then if necessary will slighly roll the sharp edge off the hoof and I'm done!

Now I will watch the horse move again and if there are any muscle spasms left I will simply do some simple bodywork to release them so the hooves can grow nice and evenly for the next 6 weeks or so.

You are welcome to print out this PDF cheat sheet from my NHC101 Home Study course.

to print out and take with you for the barn.

I hope this has helped a little bit. Trimming HEALTHY hooves is not rocket science as long as one is familiar with the anatomy and physiology (form and function) of the equine digit and lower limb AND is well versed with the trim tools.

If you'd like to learn more but don't have the time to do a scheduled class online you can easily register for PENZANCE's Natural Hoofcare 101 HOME STUDY course ... where you'll learn all the necessary knowledge about the form and function of the hoof plus how to maintain healthy hooves ... with regard to the whole horse. Please feel free to contact me for further information if you're interested in doing this in your own time and at your own pace BUT with FULL support from me. or simply PM to me through Facebook:


Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications including The Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoof care for the last 20 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. You can email to Gwen -- or telephone in the US (774)-280-4227 NEW PHONE). For further information please click here:

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