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How to Pull a Shoe Off

By Marie Leginus

It was finally here, you and Studley have been waiting all summer for that perfect day; the day to load up and hit that favourite trail at the park. The sun was shining, and the sky was blue, and you knew it was going to be a great day. Once you were parked, and in the trailer unloading your steed you notice something funny about Studley?s hoof. You unload him and tie him to the trailer to take a better look, and to your amazement his shoe is half off and twisted on his hoof. Now what? Call the farrier; that came to no answer.

This article will help you, the horse owner, prepare for emergencies like this.  

Tools that would be needed could either be bought/borrowed from your farrier, or purchased from a local feed /supply store. From Left to right, Pull offs, clinch cutter (top), hammer(bottom), crease nail pullers, rasp and apron. Not all of these are required, and none of them have to be top of the line. If you are at a boarding barn, suggest to have a set of these tools for emergencies, however if you are on your own, having just the pull offs, crease nail pullers and a rasp will do.

Assess the situation.

How bad is it? Is the shoe twisted on the hoof, are there nails that could puncture the hoof, is a clip in a dangerous spot? Or is the shoe just a bit loose, and there would be no harm done to the horse.

The Quick and Easy Way

A quick way to remove the shoe would be with a pair of crease nail pullers. Taking each nail out separately will do less harm to the hoof wall and less force upon the hoof itself. Clamp its jaws around the head of each nail in turn and pry the nail out by pushing the handle away from you. When all the nails are out, the shoe should come off easily ? though if one or two nails are too worn down to grab with the nail-puller, you may need to work the shoe free with the pulloffs as shown earlier. In an emergency, you can use pliers or wire-cutters instead of a crease nail puller. If, instead of a loose shoe, you have a single loose nail, but the shoe is still firmly on the foot, you can pull out the one loose nail and leave the shoe on until your farrier can come.

Using Pull Offs

Another option is to use only the pull offs to take the shoe off, they may take some hoof wall off as well, but in an emergency, it will be for the best.

Hold your horses hoof up off the ground, between your legs, standing slightly pigeon toed while under the horse?s front leg. Having your tools close to you as you do this is a lot easier, especially if there is nobody to pass them to you.? Positions the pull offs on the shoe at the heel and close the handles together.

Once the handles are closed, grip the hoof with your leg and give a quick, fast push on the pull offs away from you.

Alternate from heel to heel with every push on the pull offs.

If under the hind leg, position yourself the same, except the hoof will be sitting in your lap, rather than between your legs.

Once the shoe is off, make sure the hoof is wrapped in duct tape, or if you have a boot to put on, to protect the hoof until you are able to have a farrier replace the shoe.

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Quarter Cracks

By James Findler and Marie Leginus


A vertical crack in the hoof wall that is parallel to the hoof tubules, originating at the coronary band. 


The structures involved are the hoof wall, the coronary band and the laminae in the affected area.

?Clinical Signs

  • The horse may or may not be lame, it will depend on the severity of the crack. Early signs that a horse may develop a quarter crack may show the hoof wall shoved upwards in the affected area, and/or a hairline crack that is minimal.
  • More severe quarter cracks will have a distinct crack line in the coronet, and may be bleeding as sensitive tissues are involved.


  • There are two types of forces that act upon the hoof as its being loaded, and when it is loaded; the ground reaction force, and the horse?s gravitational force upon the hoof and limb. If these forces aren?t distributed evenly, due to conformation or improper trimming, there will be negative effects, and possibly quarter cracks.
  • Conformation is an important factor, as a lot of horses have deviations within the hoof and limb. Horses that are base narrow, toed in, or have angular limb deformities would be more prone to quarter cracks as they have uneven stress placed upon their hooves.
  • Imbalanced hooves can be a problem as well, due to uneven loading and stress. A horse left consistently high on one side, or one area will have excess pressure and upward forces and eventually the strength of the hoof in the affected area will break down.
  • Injury or trauma to the hoof capsule and coronary band that is deep enough to damage the sensitive structures making up the hoof wall will affect regular hoof growth.


  • There are different ways to treat quarter cracks, some may work for certain horses, while others may not.
  • Determine the cause of the quarter crack; is it conformation related, trimming related, or is there an old injury in the area.
  • Unloading the affected area is important and making sure the hoof is properly balanced.
  • Stabilizing the hoof 
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Open Toed Shoes

By James Findler and Marie Leginus


A shoe to alleviate caudal hoof pain, or excess stress to the navicular area. This shoe would help reduce coffin joint pain, and horses with broken back HPA issues. May or may not be a permanent shoe.

?Anatomy Involved

 The caudal hoof: Deep digital flexor tendon, navicular bone, navicular bursa, navicular ligaments, digital cushion, medial and lateral branches of SL, distal interphalangeal joint.


  • Current X-rays beneficial
  • Severely broken back HPA
  • Significant Caudal heel pain
  • Atrophied bars/heels
  • Negative heel when sighted
  • Lameness apparent
  • Consistent pointing on affected limb/limbs


  • Specific use only (Therapeutic shoe, treated as such ? no mountain riding etc)
  • If applied incorrectly, will have negative effects on other structures.
  • Toe can be worn back too far on abrasive footing
  • Abrasive footing may create fissures and white line separation if horse is living in an un-ideal environment
  • Sole pressure may occur if not eased
  • Cautious with toe nails, if the shoe is not fit properly
  • Positive frog pressure if applied without pad (occurs when heels are sunken below the plane of the frog)
  • Dorsal coronary band dropping (?) – * If improperly fit ? may occur


  • Relieves stress on Deep digital flexor tendon, Navicular bone, navicular ligaments, navicular bursa, distal interphalangeal joint, medial and lateral branches of Suspensory Ligament, Digital cushion
  • Positive improvements on HPA
  • Positive change in hoof symmetry over time


  • Recommended to be applied to fore limbs only.
  • To be fit to the toe pillars of the hoof (not to be set underneath extremely).
  • Should have clips at the toe pillars as well. (this will help stabilize the hoof capsule and reduce movement and shear of the shoe)
  • Seating out the ground side of the shoe at the heel will reduce ground friction/force as the foot is landing. (Preferably heel first, or flat landing)
  • If altering a keg shoe, be sure to not punch the nails deep, or fuller too deep.?
  • In cases of thin soles, a full leather wedge pad is beneficial to support the foot.
  • Leather will be a better choice, as it is more forgiving than plastic.
  • The frog area on the pad may have to be cut out to avoid positive pressure
  • The use of softer equithane, and making sure the pour hasn?t created a convex plane
  • In stronger feet, a bar wedge may be sufficient on cases that have a heel lower than the plane of the frog
  • Use of copper sulfate underneath the pad will help kill bacteria and fungus that is diminishing the quality of the sole/frog/bars (will help develop a healthy sole)
  • Choosing a shoe that is going to support the limb, and factoring in a leather pad. (too small a shoe will have improper effect)