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Getting a Horse to Lift Its Leg

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Part of your role as a horse owner is to be comfortable taking care of your horse's feet. There is an old horseman's saying, "No hoof, no horse," which means that if your horse's feet aren't healthy, he won't be sound and healthy. The first step to hoof care is cleaning your horse's feet out daily.


Before you pick up your horse's feet, make sure you have your gear ready and you are dressed properly for the job. You will need a hoof pick, and should be wearing leather shoes or boots with a closed toe. Have your horse tied with a quick release knot or in cross-ties. If you are uncomfortable or working with a new horse, you may want to have someone nearby in case you need help.

Lifting the Feet

Stand beside your horse, close enough that your shoulder touches the horse's shoulder, or his hindquarters if you are picking up the back legs. Place the hand closest to the horse on his shoulder (or hindquarter) and run your other hand down his leg until you reach his fetlock, or ankle. If he hasn't started to pick his foot up by the time you get to the fetlock, squeeze the back of his leg gently and he will lift his hoof. Hold it securely and slide your other hand down to clean his hoof.

Cleaning Safely

In addition to wearing proper footwear, there are several other things to keep in mind to stay safe while cleaning your horse's feet. When you are holding your horse's hoof, keep it about even with your knee. If you hold it up too high, you may throw your horse off balance. If you hold it too low, he may think you are sitting his hoof down and pull it away from you abruptly. You also should be aware of where your body is at all times, don't lean under or behind your horse while cleaning, as this puts you in a vulnerable spot.


If your horse refuses to lift up his leg, gently lean against his shoulder or hindquarter while squeezing his fetlock. Don't lean so hard that you throw him, or yourself, off balance, just enough to encourage him to shift his weight off of the foot you want to lift up. If he tries to pull his hoof away from you while you are cleaning it, simply stop cleaning and hold his hoof securely until he quits resisting.