Do you know how to remove your horse’s shoe in an emergency? Farrier Matt Eastwood demonstrates.

A lost shoe usually causes little more than annoyance and inconvenience – but what happens when a shoe comes halfway off and your farrier can’t get to you quickly?

During that time, your horse could injure himself – worst of all, any detached nails that are still on the shoe or shoe clips could penetrate the sole of his foot, causing infection and possibly serious long-term injury.

Sometimes it’s up to you to remove the loose shoe before more damage is done. Removing a shoe is an essential first aid skill that all horse owners should be able to do, and it isn’t as difficult as you may think. You just need the right tools and technique.

Putting welfare first

Remember that removing a shoe is part of a first aid response for your horse’s welfare. If you’re unsure what to do, or you can see that there is a penetration injury, don’t attempt to remove the shoe – call your vet and farrier immediately.

The right equipment

At most feed and tack stores you can buy (fairly inexpensively) the necessary equipment you need to remove a shoe – pull-off pincers, hammer, rasp, buffer and nail pullers.

The two key tools to have are a rasp, which you’ll use to file down the clenches (the ends of the nails that are bent down and hammered against the outside of the hoof), and farrier’s pull-offs, which you’ll use to remove the shoe.

Removing a shoe

  1. It’s much easier if you have both hands free to remove the shoe so, if it’s a front shoe, face your horse’s hindquarters and hold his leg between your knees with your feet pointing towards the opposite hind hoof. If it’s a back shoe, pick up the foot and rest it on your inside thigh.

  2. Using the rasp, file off each of the clenches – this will make removing the show much easier. If you’re struggling, sit your horse’s hoof on the step of your mounting block, or on top of a traffic cone or milk crate.

  3. Many farriers recommend pulling out one nail at a time. This may take a little more time, but the shoe will just fall off after the removal of the last nail. Using this method also puts less stress on the hoof and reduces the chances of damaging the hoof wall.

  4. Using the pull-off pincers, lever the nail against the shoe. As more of the nail is exposed, move down the nail with the pullers to make it easier to remove. Repeat this process until all the nails have been removed.

  5. The other method is to carefully pull off the whole shoe using show pliers. This takes more effort as it involves pulling the shoe and all the nails out at once.

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