The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Hoof Trimming

I was never good at trying to stand on my head and hold a thousand plus animal in my hands while brandishing a pair of nippers and a rasp, or any tools, for that matter.

Bethany A. Caskey

I was never good at trying to stand on my head and hold a thousand plus animal in my hands while brandishing a pair of nippers and a rasp, or any tools, for that matter. As I aged (gracefully) I found the task of trimming hooves even more of a strain. If I was lucky, I could get a hoof or two done a day. By the time I had gone around the herd, it was time for number one again. My bruises were always maintained in a fresh and varying colored state and I was permanently frozen into a bent over posture.

I am an original do-it-yourselfer: Translation: cheap. I would rather do something myself, if at all possible, instead of waiting around for someone to finally show up at the worst possible time. Worse yet was the “honey-do method” that only guaranteed general resistance from both partners.

I use natural horse-man-ship teachings, so I would not recommend that you go out to the worst bronc in your herd with a five-gallon bucket, a pair of nippers and a rasp and plop down under them expecting anything but what you deserve.

The idea is to get the horse comfortable with being handled everywhere and the notion that as humans we can change shapes and locations around them quickly. For more details on the natural horsemanship methods, check out

Here are the basic steps to preparing your horse for the sit down method of hoof trimming. I have found in the many horses I have trimmed this way since, the worse they were about standing still the traditional way, the better this method succeeds. My assumption here is that the position is less stressful for them also and that the handler is more relaxed, therefore that attitude transmits to the horse.

This mare is a Friesian Morgan cross that was brought to me for basic handling and training at the age of four. One of her issues was not standing for the farrier to trim her feet and she had been untrimmed for several years. Here Norene shows rubbing the mare’s legs with a long piece of soft rope. This allows you to stay out of the way of any strikes or fear reactions. Notice the horse is not tied. At no time do I tie the horse while working on the feet. They should be allowed to move their feet if they feel they need to move their feet. If you do this right, they won’t feel the need.

The touching continues on all four legs and feet.

When the horse is comfortable with the rubbing sensation of the rope, we ask her to yield her leg to the pressure and hold it up. The legs are asked to lift both forward and backward.
Depending on your horse, getting to this step can take five minutes or five days. Don’t rush. Horses can live past 30 so that is a lot of years you will have a willing horse making life easier for you. Pick up each foot with the rope and then transfer the leg to your hand and hold it there for a while until the horse is comfortable. If the horse should grab the foot away, just persist and lift it up again and again until you can set it down when you are ready.
Back legs get the same treatment as the front legs. Each one gets lifted forward and back and held in the hands and rubbed.
We ask the horse to accept an object next to her feet. Since this block was a part of her pasture surroundings, she had no mistrust of it. I have used buckets, toolboxes, running boards and short barrels on their sides. Find a height that suits you and the height of the horse you are trimming.
When all is calm and right, have a seat. Spend some time just stroking the horse’s legs and giving a massage.
Squeeze the chestnut and ask the horse to yield their leg and place the leg across your lap. Do not tie the horse! If they need to move for any reason they can move away and not step on you. If you have given them an option to move away, they will not step on you.
Move to the back legs and ask the horse to give you the leg by squeezing the cap of the hock.
Place the hoof and leg onto your lap and begin cleaning, trimming and rasping.

I recommend getting the best hoof tools you can afford. I have always heard that a poor craftsman blames his tools, but in the area of hoof trimming, quality tools make a huge difference especially if your upper body strength is not the best. See below for my recommendations. Read up on the proper trim for your horse. I do not use steel shoes and just keep a nice barefoot trim going on my horses. Several trimming and shoeing techniques can be found in many good books and on the internet. You do not have to be a great hoof expert to trim the snags off a horse hoof, but it pays to study the basics.

If you have ever tried to hold a front leg between your knees and maneuver a pair of nippers or worse yet, crouch with the rear hoofs on your knees, you will welcome this method for even the most simple of hoof tasks.

The better-behaved horses will now even position themselves for me when I sit down beside them and offer the nearest foot. What more could a lazy woman want?

Originally published in Rural Heritage, Autumn 07.

Note: in the years since this article was written, I acquired a HoofJack hoof stand and it has been invaluable. For all who can’t invest in this piece of equipment, have back problems, or have a horse that has trouble standing, the sitting method is still my favorite.