Have you decided to start doing some work on your horse's hooves but aren't quite sure where to start? Not to worry, we can help point you in the right direction. First, we are obligated to tell you that we are not responsible for teaching you how to trim hooves, do so at your own risk. That being said, we strongly suggest if you're looking to start out on your own hoof trimming journey, please don't fire your farrier or trimmer, instead ask them to help you help your horse. If you're looking into trimming your own horse because you are unhappy with your current farrier/trimmer, find another professional to work with at least for a while, while you're learning the basics.
I started out by stressing the importance of keeping a professional farrier or trimmer in your horse's life because that professional farrier or trimmer is your best source of information to help you get started in trimming. If your horse is struggling to keep his or her hooves healthy between professional trims, the first option is to see if your horse needs to be trimmed more frequently. If this isn't an option for you for any reason, ask your trimmer how you can help maintain your horse's hooves between trims. If you are able to help keep your horse's hooves from getting too rough between trims, your trimmer's job will be easier when it's time for them to come out again. Your trimmer will also be able to give the best recommendations for your horse's hooves because he or she likely knows your horse's hoof needs better than anybody else. Ask specifically which tools you should get for your horse and ask to be shown how and when to use each one.
If your farrier/trimmer recommends a rasp, you may want to start with something small, such as the Bellota Mini Rasp until you get comfortable with the rasping motion. The Bellota Mini Rasp also comes with its own handle already attached, unlike most full-sized rasps. The down side to the Mini Rasp is it can take longer to rasp everything you need to touch up on large hooves, such as those of drafts or draft crosses. If you think a full-sized rasp is the right option for you, there are a lot of options but the Bellota Top Sharp, Heller Red Tang, and Save Edge Original are all good all-around rasp options.
If your farrier/trimmer would like you to have a knife on hand, either the FP Wide or Narrow Knife are great entry-level options. Ask your trimmer or farrier if they recommend a wide or narrow blade knife for your horse. Another popular option is the Anvil Brand "The Knife" which is available with either a regular or long handle. The ideal handle length really depends on your preferences but keep in mind that a longer handle will give you more leverage when making cuts. When looking at knives, you will notice the option of right of left on most of them, this indicates the hand in which you will hold the knife.
If you're told to get nippers, the first thing to consider is what size you need. The biggest factor in choosing nipper size is how they fit in your hand. Those of us with smaller hands typically do best with the 12-14" options. People with larger and stronger hands who are working on large horses may look into 15" or larger nippers though 14" is the most popular among both men and women. Regardless of size, the Stabil Nippers are a good option for maintenance work. If you expect to be using your nippers frequently on several horses, you may want to look into Nordic Viking Nippers or Mustad Blackened Nippers
With your farrier or trimmer on board and your new tools on hand, you're ready to get started but remember this is just the start. Take every chance you can to further your hoof trimming knowledge. Ask questions when your farrier/trimmer is around, listen to hoof trimming podcasts such as "The Humble Hoof", participate in equine podiatry clinics, take a hoof trimming course, ask as many people as many questions as you can. If you have any product questions, contact us here.