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horses and horsemanship
4-H HORSE PROGRAM
4-H HORSE PROGRAM
HORSES AND HORSEMANSHIP
This educational material has been prepared for 4-H use by the Cooperative Extension Services of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture and State Land-Grant Universities in cooperation with the National 4-H
Council and the American Quarter Horse Association.
Trade or brand names used in the publications are used only for the purpose of educational information.
The information given herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no
endorsement of products or breeds of horses by the Federal Extension Service or State Cooperative
Extension Services is implied, nor does it imply approval of products or breeds of horses to the exclusion
of others which may also be suitable.
This material was originally published by the National 4-H Council, 7100 Connecticut Avenue, Chevy
Chase, Maryland 20815.
Programs and educational materials supported by National 4-H Council; Extension Service, United
States Department of Agriculture; and all Cooperative Extension Services of the State Land-Grant
Universities are available to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin or
handicap. All are equal opportunity employers.
CARE OF HORSES' FEET
IMPORTANCE OF FOOT CARE
The value of a horse depends on his ability to perform
work. To this end, four sound feet are indispensable.
Oddly enough, foot troubles and the necessity for
shoeing are largely manmade.
The wild horse seems to have been practically free
from serious foot trouble. But with domestication these
troubles began to appear. The horse was brought from
soft pasture to hard roads; from self-regulated exercise
to enforced work; from healthy pasture to filthy
housing where he was often made to stand in his own
feces and urine or in mud; and from a light, self
limiting maintenance ration to the heavy, artificial diet
necessary for work. Even the basically sound horse
frequently breaks down under the artificial
environment and misguided "care" of man. The horse
with a conformational defect is almost certain to break
down under the conditions imposed by domestication.
The important points in the care of a horse's feet are to
keep them clean, prevent them from drying out, and
trim them so they retain proper shape and length. You
should learn the names for the parts of a horse's foot.
Each day, clean the feet of horses that are shod,
stabled, or used. Use the hoof pick for cleaning. Work
from the heel toward the toe. Be sure to clean out the
depressions between frog and bars. While you are
cleaning the feet, inspect for loose shoes and thrush.
Thrush is a disease of the foot characterized by a
pungent odor. It causes a softening of tissues in the
cleft of the frog and bars. This disease produces
lameness and, if not treated, can be serious.
Hooves occasionally become dry and brittle. Dry,
brittle hooves may split and produce lameness. The
frog loses its elasticity and no longer is effective as a
shock absorber. If the dryness is prolonged, the frog
shrinks in size and the heel contracts. Dry hooves
usually can be prevented by keeping the ground wet
around the watering tank. If the hooves of a shod horse
become too dry, either pack them in wet clay once or
twice a week after the horse has been used or attach
burlap sacks around them. Keep the sacks moistened.
After the hoof has absorbed enough moisture, brush on
a hoof dressing such as neat's-foot oil, sweet oil, or
linseed oil. Before each soaking with burlap, remove
Trim the feet so that the horse stands square and
plumb. This will alleviate strain on the tendons and
help prevent deformity, improper action and
The healthy hoof grows % to V inch per month. If the
hoof is not trimmed, the wall will break off and
will not wear evenly. To prevent this, trim the hooves
regularly, about once a month, whether the horse is
shod or not. Use nippers to trim off the horn; level the
wall with a rasp.
Incorrect foot posture is caused by hooves grown too
long either in toe or heel. The slope is considered
normal when the toe of the hoof and the pastern have
the same angle. This angle should be kept always in
mind and changed only as a corrective measure. If it
should become necessary to correct uneven wear of the
hoof, correct gradually over a period of several
Trim the hoof near the level of the sole otherwise it
will split off if the horse remains unshod. Trim the frog
carefully. Remove only ragged edges that allow filth to
accumulate in the crevices. Trim the sole sparingly, if
Never rasp the walls of the hoof. This removes the
periople, or thin varnishlike outer layer provided by
nature as a protective coating that prevents
An unshapely hoof causing uneven wear may make
foals become unsound of limb. Faulty limbs may be
helped or even corrected by regular and persistent
trimming. This practice tends to educate the foal,
making it easier to shoe at maturity. If the foal is run on
pasture, trimming the feet may be necessary long
before weaning time. Check the feet every 4 to 6
weeks. Trim a small amount each time rather than an
excessive amount at longer intervals.
Before trimming the feet, inspect the foal while it is
standing squarely on a hard surface. Then watch it
walk and trot.
Careless trimming may strain the foal's tendons.
REASONS FOR SHOEING
Shoeing is a necessary evil. Nailing an iron plate to a
horse's foot does not make walking easier for him. The
added weight of a shoe does not make for agility.
While the foot and leg are engineered to minimize
shock and road concussion, shoeing only increases
them. Nail holes made in attaching the shoe help to
weaken the hoof wall and may provide entries for
infection or separation.
Allowing a horse to wear the same shoes too long also
invites trouble. Since the hoof wall grows out
perpendicularly to the coronary band, the horse's base
of support actually grows out from under him if shoes
are left on too long. This transfers excessive strain to
flexor tendons. Shoes worn too long grow thin and
become loose, bend dangerously and may shift, causing
shoe-nail punctures or "corns."
Shoes protect the hoof against excessive wear when
unusual work is required. They provide better traction
under unfavorable conditions of terrain, such as ice and
mud. They help correct defects of stance or gait, often
CARE OF HORSES' FEET
making it possible for an unsound horse to render
satisfactory service. Shoes may be used to help cure
disease or defective hooves (contracted heels, thrush,
divided tendons). They also may be used to afford
relief from the pain of injured parts (hoof-wall cracks,
bruised soles, tendinitis).
Shoe horses to be used on hard surfaces to prevent the
wall from wearing down to the sensitive tissues
beneath. A correctly shod horse is a more efficient
performer. Shoes may be used to change gaits and
action, to correct faulty hoof structure or growth, and to
protect the hoof itself from such conditions as corns,
contraction, or cracks.
Racing "plates" are used on running horses to aid in
gripping the track.
Shoeing always should be done by a farrier who is
thoroughly experienced in the art. Shoes should be
made to fit the foot, not the foot to fit the shoe. Reshoe
or reset at 4- to 6-week intervals. If you leave shoes on
too long the hoofs grow out of proportion. This may
throw the horse off balance.
COMMON FAULTS CORRECTED BY
Splayfoot (front toes turned out, heels turned in) can
be helped or corrected by trimming the outer half of the
Pigeon Toe (front toes turned in, heels turned out
opposite of splayfoot) can be helped or corrected by
trimming the inner half of the foot more than the outer
Quarter Crack (a vertical crack on the side of the
hoof) usually can be corrected if the hoof is kept moist
and the toes shortened.
Cocked Ankles (standing bent forward on the
fetlocks-usually hind fetlocks) can be helped or
corrected by lowering the heels. Cocked ankles will not
occur if foals are allowed to get ample exercise and are
not overfed, and the foal's heels are kept trimmed so
that there is plenty of frog pressure.
Contracted Heels (close at heels) can be spread apart
if the heels are lowered and the frog allowed to carry
more of the animal's weight.
HOOF CARE HINTS
Begin when foal is only a few months old. Keep feet
Exercise foals on dry ground to allow natural wear. If
kept in stall, rasp down every 2 to 3 weeks. Clean soles
and clefts of frog frequently.
Do not pare out sole, just clean.
Do not trim away healthy frog unless there is clearly an
excess. (See illustration B.)
Keep foot straight with angle of short pastern. Front
hoof-to-ground angle should be approximately 450 (See
Rear hoof-to-ground angle should be approximately
450 (See illustration B.)
Rasp sharp edge of hoof wall to make bearing surface
approximately true thickness of wall. (See illustration
Do not rasp outside wall.
Always rasp in such a manner that the heel is included
in each stroke. (See illustration D.)
APPROX. DEGREES FRONT / /
APPROX. DEGREES REAR /
/...,^ ^ -
NOT LIKE THIS
CARE OF HORSES' FEET
PARTS OF THE PASTERN AND FOOT
TO PICK UP FRONT FOOT
CARE OF HORSES' FEET
DRAW A PICTURE OF YOUR HORSE'S FOOT HERE
CARE OF HORSES' FEET
1. This document is 4HHSG02, one of a series of the 4-H Youth Development Program, Florida Cooperative
Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Printed. Please visit the
FAIRS Website at http://hammockifas.ufl.edu.
2. Debbie Glauer, member of 4-H Animal Science Design Team, Department of Family, Youth and Community
Science, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida,
.LI, UNIVERSITY OF
Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES, Christine
Taylor Waddill, Director, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this information to further the purpose
of the May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and is authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only
to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, age, sex, handicap or national origin. The information in this
publication is available in alternate formats. Single copies of extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available
free to Florida residents from county extension offices. Information on copies for out-of-state purchase is available from Publications
Distribution Center, University of Florida, PO Box 110011, Gainesville, FL 32611-0011. Information about alternate formats is available from
Educational Media and Services, University of Florida, PO Box 110810, Gainesville, FL 32611-0810. This information was published
December 1989, Florida Cooperative Extension Service.