How To Pick Out A Horse’s Hoof

Before you ride you’ll want to remove any stones, mud etc. from your horse’s hooves. This is a very simple but vital part of grooming your horse.

Why Pick Out a Horse’s Hooves?

The first and main reason is to ensure that your horse is able to move without pain. Stones lodged in your horse’s hoof can cause your horse significant discomfort … and worse. Pain may lead to tripping, bruising can lead to abscessing … You get the picture!

Apart from ensuring the horse’s hooves are free of debris, picking them out on a regular basis helps to prevent nasties such as thrush and white line disease from developing (more about these in a later post). Many hoof diseases are caused by anaerobic microorganisms. Exposing the organisms to air causes them to die, allowing the hoof to heal. Making sure any little hoof nooks and crannies are cleaned regularly can help prevent these issues from developing in the first plate.

Tools to Pick Out a Hoof


All you need to pick out a hoof is a hoof pick. I find the ones with a brush attached are the most useful. If you need to get one, you can get some high quality picks from Amazon for under $6.00.

Method of Picking Out A Horse’ Hoof

The video below by Farrier Mark Payne demonstrates the correct way to pick out a horse’s hoof:



Make sure your horse is comfortable and relaxed, and is aware that you are there. If he is tense and worried he won’t want to be restricted to just 3 legs!

You might want to use a fly veil / fly mask and some fly repellant if there are a lot of flies around. Flies cause a horse to fidget and stomp his hooves, which makes it rather difficult to hold one of them up 🙁

Pick Up the Hoof

Start at the front and ask you horse to lift his hoof. Different horses respond to different cues to do this:

  • Try running your hand down the back of his leg from the knee down to the fetlock. Give the fetlock a little squeeze and he should lift his hoof.
  • If the above doesn’t work, try the same thing again, but lean against the horse’s shoulder a little. Just shifting his weight slightly to the other leg will generally persuade him to lift his foot.
  • If your horse still won’t lift his leg, try pressing on the chestnut.

Once the horse lifts his leg catch the hoof in your hand and hold it up.

Clean the Hoof

Pick Out the HoovesOnce you have the horse’s hoof in your hand use the hoof pick to loosen any mud, stones, manure etc, which may be lodged in the hoof. Start by cleaning the groove down each side of the frog.

Frequently use the hoof pick brush to remove the loosened debris from the hoof. That way you can clearly see what still remains compacted within the hoof.

Next, loosen any hardened, compacted material from the sole. This can be quite hard, almost like cement, so you may need to use some force to start. Once the first bit has been dislodged, the rest usually comes out fairly easily.

It is common for small stones to get lodged around the outer edge of the hoof, particularly in the area of the white line. Make sure you scrape this part of the hoof clean as well. I use a very small, sharp pick in this area.

Release the Leg

When you have finished picking out the horse’s hoof lower it to the ground, rather than just dropping it. The hoof can actually hit the ground with some force if you just drop if, something to avoid if possible.

Do the Other Hooves

Having picked out one hoof, continue to do the others.

Follow the same sequence of legs each time you pick out your horse’s hooves. The horse will soon catch on to the pattern, and when you release one hoof, will already shift his weight ready to lift the next one.

Remember that it can be uncomfortable for a horse to have his leg up for any length of time. If your horse starts to fidget put the hoof down for a few seconds. It’ll make him happy, and will keep the process easy and uneventful (always a plus when around horses!).


I hope you’ve enjoyed the above. If you have any hoof picking tips or anecdotes to share please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your experiences 🙂

Quick Picking 🙂



  1. That is smart to use a hoof pick to help in the horseshoe cleaning process. I really like that hoof picks help loosen any mud, stones, and manure in that may be stuck. I would agree that also getting a hoof brush is smart to help loosen any debris that is compacted.

    • Hi Hailey. Thanks for the input. Yes, horses can get a lot of muck stuck in their hooves. Sometimes it’s compacted so hard it’s really difficult to remove. But removing it is essential, hence the hoof pick. It’s also useful to have a hoof brush (attached to the hoof pick) to brush off the loosened dirt, so you can easily see what’s still stuck in the hoof.

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