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Equestrian Articles, News and Events

How to Pull a Loose Shoe

by Bo Poulsen with Sue Weakley

It’s summertime and horse’s hoofs are growing faster. Add to that, in some places it's getting to be mud season. Many of us have come to the barn to find our horse with a loose shoe or nail. Sometimes the safest thing to do for your horse is to carefully pull the shoe or loose nail yourself. If the shoe is twisted on the hoof, or there is danger of your horse stepping on a nail or clip, then pulling the shoe or nail could prevent further problems or injury.

What You'll Need

1. Tools (listed from left to right in the picture below): crease nail pullers, pull-offs, hammer, clinch cutter and rasp.


2. Vet wrap or Elastikon, cotton sheeting or disposable diaper, and duct tape to protect the hoof after you pull the shoe until the farrier arrives

How To Do It

Step 1. Straighten the nail ends so they'll pull through the hoof without damaging it. Use the clinch cutter and the hammer. Put the sharp end of the clinch cutter just under the clinch head and lightly hammer the head of the clinch away from the hoof.

Step 2. Pick up your horse's hoof. If you can get a grip on the nail heads, pull them out with the crease nail puller. Be sure to discard the nails in a safe place where they won't be stepped on. Always support the toe of the horse with your other hand when you “pry” the nails out.

© Step 3. Loosen the shoe heels by slipping the shoe puller's jaws between the shoe and the buttress of the hoof's heel. Push the tool's handle inward, toward the center of the sole. It's important that you resist the urge to pry outward as this could rip off a substantial chunk of the hoof wall.

Step 4. After you've loosened both heels, pry the shoe's toe loose in the same manner, by pulling the handle of the shoe pullers inward, toward the center of the sole.

Step 5. Repeat this motion wherever the shoe is still nailed, until it comes off. If any nails remain in the hoof wall, pull them out with the pull-offs.

Step 6. Remove the shoe.

Step 7. Apply a hoof boot or cover the hoof and sole with a protective material. Center the cotton sheeting or disposable diaper over the sole, bringing the edges up and around the hoof wall. Secure it there with the elastic bandage; cover the bandage with strips of duct tape to keep the hoof edges from wearing through. 

Step 8. Confine your horse and schedule a farrier visit.


About Bo Poulsen: Originally from Denmark, Bo comes from a family of horse people. He began a career as a blacksmith in the 1990s in Wellington, Florida. Bo then returned to Denmark to graduate university with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Bo has shod horses for many international events including the Pan American Games in Rio, and he’s worked on horses for many of the past WEG and Olympic teams. Bo is married to dressage rider and trainer Ruth Hogan-Poulsen.

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