What tools do I need to remove a horseshoe?

Q: My horse doesn’t actually lose his shoes often, but he frequently twists them so they are partially away from his feet. When this happens, should I try and remove the whole shoe or wait for the farrier to come? I am worried he might damage his foot from the poking-out nails. And if I try to remove the shoe, can you tell me what kind of tool(s) I need, where to get them, and a basic technique? I am a new horse owner.

Nicola, Drury

A: Thanks for your question Nicola. It can be quite frustrating when a shoes gets twisted on the hoof. There is always a risk when this happens that this scenario can cause injury.

For example, the twisted shoe can end up pressing on sensitive structures (over the frog, seat of corn, sole etc) or the nails can end up sticking in the hoof. There’s always a risk too that the twisted shoe can come into contact with opposing limbs and cause injury.

If the shoe has come away from the hoof and/or twisted then it’s a sensible approach in a first aid situation to try and remove the offending shoe providing you have the correct skills and tools necessary to do it safely.

It’s a good idea for every horse owner to have the skills necessary to remove a shoe in an emergency. If you ask your own farrier in advance, he might find the time to show you and give you a hands-on demo!

Having the correct tools to remove a shoe helps but there have been some ingenious improvisations in times of need (at shows, on treks and so on).

Useful tools ideally include:

  • A tool to lift or cut the nail clenches such as a buffer. Using a rasp to remove the clenches will do if you’re stuck
  • A hammer to hit the buffer with
  • A tool to lever the shoe away from the hoof (shoe pullers/pincers ideally)

Most of these tools are widely available from farrier supplies, online or many local saddleries.

Good luck – you may gain an increased sense of respect for your farrier when you realise how physical just removing a shoe can be!

David Hankin Dip.WCF

This question and answer first appeared in NZ Horse & Pony magazine May 2010

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