Horse Riding – The Importance of Picking Hooves

June 12th, 2011 by Emily

Horse Riding – The Importance of Picking Hooves

You’ve heard it time and again. “Don’t forget to pick out your horse’s feet.” But why is this so terribly important?

It is simple to presume that if you picked your horse’s feet out before you rode that they would be fine when you are done. Or to feel that since you horse has been inside all night that there couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with his feet that needs cleaning. Unfortunately, neglect of hoof cleaning can lead to many problems in the long run.

The obvious reason for cleaning feet is to remove dirt. But many people don’t comprehend why it is so important to remove that dirt in the first place. After all, wild horses don’t get their feet picked out.

A barefoot horse tends to loose the dirt from its feet evenhandedly easily. While it might pack in there, it will drop out over time from the impact of the feet on hard surfaces. Often a barefoot horse will have clean feet when you go to pick them out, which is what you like to find in a healthy horse.

With shoes, the dirt is packed into the foot and held in place by the unnatural confines of the shoe itself. Often the dirt remains packed in the foot for days at a time, not allowing the hoof to breathe properly. The dirt can also harbor hazardous foreign bodies such as sharp rocks.

Whether your horse is shod or barefoot, it is essential to pick out the feet and remove any rocks or other potentially harmful foreign bodies. Horses’ feet can bruise easily, particularly around the frog. Bruises often lead to abscesses, which can cause a horse to be seriously lame for weeks at a time.

Another risk that many have heard of, but few fully comprehend is thrush. Thrush is an infection of the hoof caused by a fungus that grows in the dark, wet confines of the hoof. Horses with deep grooves beside the frog and a groove in the heel are more prone to thrush than the average animal. Some horses seem to have a particularly weak immunology against thrush and will get it no matter how regularly you clean their feet.

To prevent thrush it is essential that the hooves get cleaned one a regular basis. Horses who stand in stalls much of the day have a higher risk of thrush due to the moist bedding that gets lodged in their hooves.

Thrush has a distinct smell that clings to the fingers and hoofpick after cleaning the feet. If you notice any strong odor from your horse’s feet, it would be smart to treat for thrush as a preventative. There are many products accessible to treat thrush. Ask your vet or farrier for the product(s) with which they have had the most success.

If you take good care of your horse’s feet, you will ensure that he will remain sound and healthy for your riding enjoyment.

Lydia K Kelly is a writer for HorseClicks, classifieds of horses for understanding Massachusetts, horses for understanding Michigan, horses for understanding Minnesota and other states. Lydia is also a featured author at

Interview with Dr. Scott Morrison on identifying and treating thrush in horses

Question: Is gentian violet ok to use on horses for thrush?
I’ve found out in many cases that the gention violet is perfect for getting rid of thrush-a main ingrediant in thrush buster……..However, is it ok to use gentian violet straight….not diluted with anything? I’m not sure, and I don’t want to use it if it will affect the frog or other parts of the hooves. Thanks for answering, and please help!

Best answer:

Answer by allywandell
I don’t know about Gention Violet, but everyone at my barn and I always use straight bleach on the hoof. It works pretty well!

What do you think? Answer below!

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4 Comments on “Horse Riding – The Importance of Picking Hooves”

  1. zakiit says:

    Yes, you can use it as long as it is applied carefully. Obviously it stains anything and everything so you could end up with a grey horse with purple spots!

    Best would be to ask the vet to have a look and see if they can do something. Or look for recipes for homemade thrush remedies.

  2. vkucera10 says:

    to person above^^ it is NEVER okay to use STRAIGHT bleach on a horse’s hooves! never ever ever. u need to dilute the bleach with water, and still bleach dries the frog and hoof out. you may be killing the thrush, but you’re also killing the hooves.

  3. FarmGirl13 says:

    i wouldnt. it may be too strong by itself. I know the thrush stuff is expensive but I would keep buying it. Also when the thrush clears I use apple cider vinegar every time I clean hooves. it keeps the thrush away.

  4. iluvstache says:

    I would advise you use betadine solution

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