KBR Horse Health Information

Care AND Prevention

Trimming Wild Horse Feet

Wild horse feet are a product of a combination of genetics and lots of use over hard terrain as young horses mature and their feet develop. The end result is usually a very durable and easy to maintain foot.

As a wild horse adopter you may have found it difficult to find a farrier to come out and trim your horse. On the other hand you my have found someone to come out but the farrier doesn't have a clue as to how a wild horse should be trimmed. Fortunately most wild horse feet don't require experts to maintain them and increasing numbers of adopters are doing their own farriery work.

This feature will provide you with the A-B-Cs of giving your wild horse a proper and long lasting trim.

  NECESSARY EQUIPMENT
Most wild horse feet are very hard. You need good quality tools in order to cut through them. We recommend purchasing high quality professional grade nippers, hoof knife and and rasp. The cheaper nippers will be a struggle to use. Get a small round file in order to keep your hoof knife sharp. We break the pointed tails off our rasps and wrap the ends with vet wrap to avoid accidentally poking the horse in the belly with the point. A set of leather chinks (farrier's chaps) with a hoof knife pocket will also make the job easier and protect your pants from the rasp and nippers.
Basic Tools
You will likely need to use two hands on the nippers and we have found it very useful to have some kind of hoof stand to work from. The Hoof Jack (right) is a commercially available adjustable stand that comes with a sling and a pedestal.

If you prefer you can make your own stand. The stand below was made using round and flat stock. Each leg is a different height. The pedestal was made from an old rasp. The yoke and pedestal slip over whatever leg is the correct height for the job. The yoke is wrapped with Vetwrap to give it some padding.

The Hoof Jack
Homemade stand showing yoke attached
Homemade stand showing pedestal attached
  BASIC PRINCIPLES OF TRIMMING
If you consider three important elements you should be able to do a good job trimming your wild horse's feet.

  • Wild horses walk on the soles of their feet, not their hoof walls.

    If you had long fingernails it would be very uncomfortable for you to hold yourself up on the tips of your fingers when on "all fours." Your fingernails are designed to protect the ends of your fingers, not bear weight. The same goes for the wild horse's foot. He needs to bear weight on his sole.

  • Wild horses need a short forward toe length and beveled edges

    Natural wild horse feet resemble what's known as a "four point trim." They have rather blunt toes and primarily bear weight on the four quarters of the hoof. We need to be careful about not getting too much horizontal toe length when trimming wild horses, particularly in the front feet.

    In the domestic environment the wild horse will not wear down his hoof wall nearly to the extent that he would in the wild. For that reason we need to bevel, or round off, the bottoms of the hoof walls so that they will wear more appropriately.

    Beveling also reduces cracking and chipping and allows enough hoof flexion to prevent the horse from becoming "sole bound." Naturally the degree of beveling we would do would vary according to the use of the horse. If a wild horse is used in rough country we might want to leave a little more hoof material on the ground. In most applications, however, aggressive beveling of the hoof wall will provide the most appropriate wear between trims.

  • Wild horses need a balanced "touch down."

    How your wild horse's foot strikes the ground will tell you what you need to do to finish up your trim. At a brisk walk the foot should strike down just slightly heel first and be even on the medial-lateral (inside-outside) axis.

    If he touches down slightly toe first, his toe needs to be taken back a bit more. If his foot rocks to the inside or outside when he touches down, the edge that touches ground first should be trimmed off just a little more. When the hoof glides onto the ground evenly with the heel kissing the ground first, then you know you have it right.

Anatomy of the hoof

1 - Apex of Frog
2 -Duckett's Dot
3 - Tip of coffin bone
4 - Tip of horn growth
5 - Buttress of frog
6 - Coffin bone
7 - Navicular bone
8 - Short pastern
9 - Deep digital flexor tendon
10 - Digital cushion (Includes ungual cartilage)
11 - Coronary band
12 - Extensor process
13 - Heel
Beveled hoof wall
Walking the horse to check for
proper "touchdown."

If the horse's feet are trimmed so that he supports himself by his sole, his hoof walls are beveled and his feet strike the ground evenly and slightly heel first, you will have feet that will generally maintain themselves well and you will have a horse that is likely to preserve his native balance and surefootedness.

Continue to Part Two


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KBR Horse Health Information, 1997 Lamm's Kickin' Back Ranch and Willis & Sharon Lamm. All rights reserved. Duplication of any of this material for commercial use is prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached.
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