Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hoof Preparation Tips

Hoof Preparation Tips

If you show at all, polishing your horses hooves is pretty much required.  Doing the job correctly and easily is not a daunting task, but should be done at home in a relaxed environment if at all possible.  You relaxed will make the task that much easier.

If it's a one day show, I would do all the sanding prep a day or two ahead and then do the final polish either the night before or early a.m. at the show, assuming you don't have the first class.

Final prep work can be done at the show (applying the actual polish, etc.)


  • Pick out the horses feet
  • Scub them clean (you can do this before or after sanding).
  • Sand all the horse's hooves. (don't over-sand and make the hooves week, just smooth is the goal). Sanding is the key to that smooth glass-like surface.  Using different grit sandpaper is the best, although some people swear by electric sanders. Using a Dremel to sand. Be careful the first time as you don't want to over-do this process and weaken the hoof wall.  Sanding does not need to be done before each show as you don't want to weaken the hoof, just smooth out the ridges.
  • Buff with Extra Super Fine steel wool. 
  • Clean the hooves for dust/dirt 
  • Apply the hoof polish. 

What to use on different colored hooves:

White hooves:
White hooves are always sanded and left white. These take a lot of preparation (scrub them clean) and sanding, but look great just clear coated.

Striped hooves:  
Hooves can be painted solid black or follow the natural stripe - with a steady hand and cooperative horse). While many just use only a clear top coat (especially important for color classes were appaloosas need to show their striped hooves).

Black hooves:
Sand and buff. Coat with shoe polish (add moisture). Buff off shoe polish with a brush and then rag. Painted with hoof black.  Once dry spray with ultra clear.

Helpful Tips:

  • True black felt tip markers can be used as a guide around the top of the hoof to get a clean line. Make sure it's black-black not red-black or blue-black.
  • Polish on a clean surface. A piece of cardboard, tarp (I use the cheap throw-away bamboo mats from the dollars store), you don't want to get dirt and hair in the polish while it's drying.
  • Keep your polish away from dancing horse hooves!  I've seen more than one person covered in polish from a casual or accidental kick.  It's not pretty and what a mess to clean up off of you and your horse!
  • Opened polish dries out and gets dirty.  Don't try to use thick or gunky polish its a waste of time and ruins a good prep job. Buy new!
  • Acetone (cheap nail polish remover) and baby wipes are helpful for the accidental spills and cleanup.
  • Clear top coat can be re-applied before a class.  Again apply on a dirt/dust/hair free surface.
  • Baby wipes are good for the final wipe before going in the ring.
  • There are commercial hoof polish remover.  Views are mixed on these products, so proceed with caution.
  • Jergens hand lotion (any that are high in lanolin) massaged into the coronary band and buffed off work as a hoof treatment.  
  • There are a number of homemade recipes online for hoof dressing, run them by your farrier or vet before use.

 I've collected these over the years from different sites. 
If you are unsure, please ask your vet first! 
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