How to Trim Your Horses' Hooves

Aha ... got your attention!  No, this is not going to be about how to physically trim your horses' hooves. As a matter of fact, I can't even tell you how to trim your horse's hooves. Not from here. It's like telling someone "how to pray".

Think about it . . . . . . 


There are no magical trims that are going to magically correct hooves. There are no magical trims that are going to 'make concavity' to the sole or cause the horse to land 'heel first' in its stride or even out to get a better sliding stop from the form of a trimmed hoof (or shod).

There is no magic wand

Nope, there is nothing magical about trimming horses' hooves. No magic buttons to push, no magical wands to wave over the horse, no magical 'tricks' of the trade (cause all 'tricks' are just that ... tricks.)

In fact, no one can tell you how to trim your horse's hooves.

Oh sure, one can share with you the 'basic trim' for the 'basic hoof' but, in reality are your horse's hooves 'basic'?  Are they "normal"?  What is a 'normal' hoof anyway?

So and so may teach this way of trimming and another so and so teaches another way of trimming hooves and each one of the so and so's claim their ways is the only way!

That's just wrong, it just doesn't work that way.

The one and only way to trim your horses' hooves

But wait .. there IS only one way to trim your horses' hooves and that is the way the individual hoof tells you to trim it up on that individual horse.

Even though you may have trimmed your horses' hooves dozens of times and you feel you "know" your horse's hooves, that doesn't mean you know how to trim hooves.

Each hoof presents itself differently at every single trim session

Anyone who has trimmed thousands of hooves over a lifetime will tell you that each hoof presents itself brand new each and every trim session. (Unless the humans' ego is involved and then the horse is in trouble.) 

Anyone who has trimmed thousands upon thousands of hooves will tell you that every single trim is going to be slightly different than the last one; that there are NO set magical numbers to tell the angle of the wall or the angle of the heels or the height of the heels or the length of the toes each and every trim.

It just ain't gonna happen.

Anyone who says differently?  Well, I was taught if I can't say something nice then I need to shut my mouth. So, I will right now. Suffice to say that I'm on a HUGE rant today! It does have to do with what I'm writing today, though. But I'm still going to try to be nice about it.

Mitigating factors

There are so many mitigating factors that influence the growth and wear of horses' hooves Those factors are happening every moment of the day and night.

One of the factors, not even thought of, is even influenced by the human's mood and abilities on the day of the trim! Even down to the human's present mindset of insecurity or the need to feel defensive at the time of the trim. 

I can speak personally to this - the horse will mirror back to you anything that needs to be corrected in YOU almost from your initial approach to the horse.

Think of the times you couldn't catch your horse for the farrier or trimmer. Think of the times that your horse refused to lift its hoof when it's done so hundreds of times before? Think of the times your horse begins to lean on the farrier or trimmer and is absolutely non-agreeable to what is being demanded.

Ahhhhhhhh, that word - demanded.

Would we like someone to just come up to us and grab our leg to look at the soles of our feet?  Or would we like to be REQUESTED to do so?  Either way -- think and FEEL (as you are thinking) the energy that is going out from that human who is demanding. Methinks that if someone DEMANDED that you lift your foot up instead of requesting that you probably would lift it - but not in such a nice place on the demander's body! 

How does this even influence the growth and wear of the hoof? It's a simple illustration ... the human gets all bent out of shape, the horse is more uncooperative, therefore, when the human DOES get the rasp on the horse's hoof it's probably not going to be placed or used in such an exacting way as the hoof is needing. The human is thinking/focusing on his or her frustration and ego. As such, the next few weeks of the horse moving about on less-than-balanced hooves is going to influence and shape the hooves for the next trim cycle. And, because of that, will need different attention than it did the trim before.

You see, we take care of horses and hooves FOR THE HORSE! Not for ourselves. Not for our egos. Well, let's say that that's the way it SHOULD be. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Do it for the horse!

So this is the crux of my ranting today - do it for the horse! Do it for the hooves!  Each trim is going to be different. Each trim is going to need a different angle, a different length trimmed, a different height adjusted than the time before. There are no magic numbers, no magic trimmers and no magic methods.

It doesn't matter who the trimmer is or who the trimmer learned from ... if the trimmer does not learn from the horse then the horses are in trouble as the human egos continue to flourish.

The "3 constants" in trimming hooves

That being said, there are 3 'constants' in trimming hooves:

The only constants that should occur with each trim are:
1. The bars are trimmed so that they are not weight bearing
2. Any flare on the lower outer wall should be rasped off
3. The outer wall and toe should be bevelled

Please, listen. Listen to the horse. Forget about what so and so is going to think or say. Leave your egos at the gate and do it for the horse and hoof.

Have a good day and be blessed.  And thanks for reading my rant!


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 includingThe 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 hoofcare for the last 18+ years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine, now in NE CT and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here: You can email Gwen at or telephone in the US (774)-280-4227). Be sure to check out Gwen's website :

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