Monday, November 9, 2009

Topic of Taboo

I promised I would get to this at some point, so here it is. The topic of Taboo for so many.

*cue dramatic music and ominous smoke*


*shrieks and screams of horror to be heard*

(click on the picture for all 4 hooves)

This picture was found online by searching the web for images of 'sanded hoof' and is from the Horse Grooming Supplies forum. While the poster UnDun offers a simple enough routine and step by step instructions, I may be able to add a few thoughts, shorten the length of the process and minimize the damage being done, while still achieving the same final effect. **If they wish for the photos and link to be removed, email me (available in my profile) and I will do so.**

That's right, hoof sanding. One of the many things people do to their horses for the sake of a piece of silk with lettering on it and a rosette at the top. They come in several colors, blue, red, yellow, white, pink and green... Blue, red and yellow for a Championship, red, yellow and white for Reserve Champion, sometimes accompanied by a neck sash, small blanket of flowers, whatever, but the color still fades with time, the flowers do too if they are also silk- otherwise they dry up and shrivel to dust... But the horse has to stand on those feet, day in day out, regardless of the number of ribbons they do or do not bring home.

For all intensive purposes, sanding does bring out the look of the hoof and put a smooth, glassy appearance on each one. Glazed over with some polish and **ooooh shiny!** But does it really do anything to enhance your horses performance? Does it make them travel straighter down the rail? Lighter in the bridle? Perform a pattern correctly? Achieve higher scores? Mark a clear round over taller jumps in the hunter or jumper division or win more races?

I will bet NOBODY could answer any of those questions honestly with a Yes. I will tell you one thing it does, in regards to those things listed above. It could very well draw the judges attention to your horses hooves and amplify the amount of lameness they are exhibiting! Is that what you really wanted? Probably not!

Many people start with a wire brush to remove the dirt. Nothing different than you would find in a hardware store. Like these, listed by CCA Sales, Inc.-

WHY? Is the dirt in your area that thick, crusty, sticky, tar like- WHAT? Someone please tell me. Most show horses are kept in a stall, if not while in training, at least for some time before the show. Is the bedding and manure that bad? Or maybe the footing in the work areas? If so, then something seriously needs to change and quick! You have bigger issues to address than the appearance of the horses hooves.

Then a lot of folks reach for the power tools. Flat sanders, like you would use on cabinetry and a Not so favorite of mine- the flap wheel sander.
This one is from Lee Valley & veritas in their woodworking section. The replaceable strips in part B go into the wheel in part A. This attaches to an average drill, just like a drill bit. The sand paper strip comes out in front of the wire brush pieces. As the paper wears, you loosen the center fastener, pull the paper out to cover the wire brushes, tighten things up and off you go again. Usually only one grit is used (120 I think) and things go pretty smoothly. (No pun intended.)

Personally, I have burned a horses hoof once, using one of these. I did it, I admit it, and I cared for him as the hoof healed and grew out. Anyone care to guess how long ago that was? Lucky for me, luckier still for Kontender- it did not cause him any lameness issues. I kept my job, he was able to be shown, we both survived, live and learn, chalk it up to experience. Don't ever do it again if you can help it...

I was trying to remove a 'spot' on his hoof. The amount of friction created a hot spot and eventually a redness as it was 'burned' from the amount of heat being created. All on a white area of the hoof in the rear quarter. Visible to the judges eye while the horse goes down the rail in a performance class? Thankfully, no, it wasn't. If you are going to use one of these- be aware of what can happen. The burn I mentioned- that was over 18 years ago and I still have not forgotten about it. Think I learned my lesson? You bet!


I am breaking this up into a few posts, due to the length and the amount of information I will be sharing on the topic. The next posts will be about sanding and how to do it with as little damage as possible and how to prepare the hoof the day of the show.


  1. One groom I had when I did show Arabs for a few years, sanded the clinches right off of the nails. So when I did my rundowns and slides, the mare lost the sliders off of hher back feet. I did not know it until after the class and I noticed the shoes were gone and the mare burned her heels. The clinches in the front were also sanded off, but because there were bell boot on the front I did not see it.

    I hate sanding and polish. It also drys their feet out.


  2. You gotta wonder, why? we are after all discussing horses , not beauty Pageant contenders! buff off the dirt etc I can see but beyond that? What is next colored nail polish? never mind I shoul no better than to ask. A clean well groomed , well presented, NICELY CONFORMED,WELL TRAINEED horse , should not need all the bells and whistles. But I suspect I am living a bit of a dream . I guess if its going to be done , and there is a way to best mitigate the damages , I would like to know

  3. FV- yes it can be done with minimal damage to the hoof. I will be covering that in the next post or two, however many it takes to address it and discuss the right way to do it, if you so choose.

    Whaps JR with the newspaper- for hiring someone like that... lol!

  4. It will be interesting , glad you are posting about it , after all just because I don't like the idea ,it is not going away. I would far rather be educated in the right way to do it than blindly destroy a horses hoof in the pursuit of glory.
    As I am looking to start showing the fat baby next spring , I am going to be picking your brain fairly steady!

  5. That's why the blog is here Fern! Pick at it as you may, I can offer you suggestions, but how you choose to proceed is up to you. In the end though, we all want what is best for the horses.

    GL, where are you? I posted this for you, ya know! lol

  6. fernvalley01 - colored hoof polish? But of course!!!

    Here are a couple:

  7. Not only colored hoof polish, but bling (see bottom of this blog post):

    I don't show, so have never heard of hoof sanding, but IF, I ever were to sand my horse hooves, I would only use some sandpaper and sand them "lightly" by hand, no power tools. Way too easy to overdue it.

  8. Well, it's about bleedin' time, pun totally intended.
    Thanks, CNJ.
    I thought my eyes were about to pop out the first time I read about it. Totally.

    Yet, I do remember the harness horses with high gloss feet at the Royal. They did it once a year, and I think it was high-gloss shoe polishes they used. Hand-BUFFED, not hand-Sanded. Huge difference, right there.
    Not like a monthly occurrence. Once a year.

    The crap they use in adhesives now..

    AGGGHHH, I just read your comment JR!!
    Sanded off the freakin' clinches!!!

    Great post, I don't think the link to one pic is right? (Only the wire brush one anyway, no biggie)

    Hoof sanding's wrong, and it shouldn't happen.
    So there.

    You can bling your tack, as long as it fits. No blinga the horse, pleees.
    t'ank you.

    anti-anything that doesn't improve the HORSE's comfort out.

  9. FV- yep there is not only the colored stuff, but also the glittery crap too.

    Within the Arab circles, they do not allow anything other than clear, for the most part, in the halter classes. Performance allows you a bit of breathing room, but black is never used on a hoof with white or even some white stripes in it.

    Stock breeds allow different things and then the open shows- all bets are off.

    For the most part though, like you said. It's a horse for crying out loud.

    Drillrider- while the hoof sanding may be relevant in some parts of the show industry, maybe there are things the drill teams do that the show folks cringe over, agonize over or just don't even know about? If you know of any, please share and I will gladly put it up as a guest post. That way everyone can learn from your experiences.

  10. Duh "I don't think the link to one pic is WORKING."

    Kinda like my brain..

  11. Careful GL- someone may pour alicoholic solutions on that bleedin' of yours. Don't want no wormy or germy infestations going on there... Them hooves bee's standing in poop afterall... anything could happen??? Only one reason to be using alcohol on the hooves and I will cover that later.

    One of the pictures offers up some sorta clicky box link saying something about a something or other... Not sure which one now that I posted it...

  12. Oh, don't even mention the bloody alcohol...

    Oh, your explanation of the clicky-wonky thingy is totally clear;)

    To The Periople.
    Please, please, PLEASE, leave it the heck alone.
    Horse will thank you.
    It will.

  13. Our little "town square" has a carriage now. It's pulled by a mainly white APHA. They paint his hooves gold. It's sooo cheesy.
    Ok I'm a doofus..but does sanding hooves really make that big of a difference?

  14. OK..just read CNJ's post about why to sand..ummm....errr....guess I need to read everything...Are the voices in my head bothering anyone else?

  15. GL- if the alcohol is bloody, you did something wrong. Really, really wrong! Unless of course you were mixing a bloody mary... Hmmmmm

    C3D- to some people- yes. Big difference. Others could care less. I guess it's all about the type of show, the classes you enter and what you wish to present to the public. Thankfully some people don't go to the extremes that others do.

  16. Oh, there's an "s" after the http thingamawhatzie.

    Nah, no difference at all, C3D.
    I'm sure it's actually beneficial to sand off the layer that holds moisture in.

    No need for that layer, at all.
    What the heck does Mother Nature know, anyway??
    Look at Arab's feet, born to be sanded. But not by POWERtools.
    sorry, rant subsiding.

    14th, so there.

  17. OK..I know this is going to label me as the B-word but I just found out the Miss KNOW-IT-ALL at the Stable got bucked off her horse. She's fine (which is why I can snicker about it) Turns out he got a little too full of P&V and dumped her ass. This woman is one of those too big for their britches people who think they KNOW EVERYTHING there is about horses and riding just b/c she's under the wing of a REAL Olympic trainer. Ever since she's started riding she's very quick to tell everyone how much they suck and she's so perfect.

  18. Okay, first off JR, being first on your wife's posts doesn't count. LOL!

    I am going to say, I don't get the need for the whole hoof sanding thing, but then again, it really doesn't matter in my discipline. We go into the ring, pick up the canter and jump our course. The hooves don't even count as long as the horse is sound.

    Of course, I don't know anything about the showing world that would even consider doing this. I have major reservations about what this would do to the integrity of the hoof over a long period of time no matter what anyone says.

  19. I am going to shatter a myth and then move directly on to a hijack.

    Silk? You mean nylon right? Yep...synthetic.
    Sensing a corrolation here?

    I want more silver. I might accept some bronze.
    But NYLON???
    Now on to the hijack. I want everyone to send me money to horses. Yeah, that's it.
    To buy horses.
    I would like a total of oh say $5700.
    Oh ooopsie I am on the wrong board
    to make that request.
    Blame it on the voices in C3D head they distracted me.LOL

  20. Thanks Dena...everyone else is blaming them today also!! I wish they'd at least give me the winning Lottery numbers!

  21. Since we are asking for money horses.....I could use about 10K..yeah...that should do it.

  22. C3D if you promise to split with me I will sell you a horse for ummm...$5700.
    So, I can buy hay. Lots and lots of hay.
    And more blankets.
    Would some of your voices like a job?
    We could send them over to this place I know and we would have the money and then some in no time.
    Wait a minute.
    You don't have a conscience or scruples do you?
    Because those would definitely get in the way.

  23. I think that extreme grooming practices happen because....

    1) A lot of halter horses are owned by rich people who spend a lot of money for them to be "trained," and since that doesn't take too long, the trainers & grooms look for other ways to make things EXCITING and PRETTY for their not-so-knowledgeable clients, who can't tell a clubfoot from a club soda, but if it's SHINY, then it must be AWESOME. Hence all the colored shavings, lights etc. at big Arab, Saddlebred, QH shows.

    2) Breeds that specialize in Shiny Flashiness then attract owners, exhibitors, & trainers who naturally gravitate that way anyhow in their personal taste, who just keep upping the ante on the Extreme Grooming weirdness. Like the fashion industry attracts flamboyant designers who get more outrageous every year.

    It's a self-perpetuating thing. These people are also susceptible to marketing, so product companies have a field day thinking up new stuff for them.

    My solid red AQHA mare ALWAYS had weird "fever rings" on her (very sound) feet, which were also striped like an Appy's. After a few go-rounds at open shows with polish, I never did more than clean w/ a nail brush & apply baby oil, Vaseline or Hooflex, and wipe clean as we went into the ring for each class.

    For a refreshing look at how Arabs are shown in the UK:

    I love that horse shows in the UK always seem to be on grass.

  24. GL- really when you think about it, the Arabian hooves were sanded constantly by Ma Nature, as they traveled across the desert dunes. Only with little resistance behind the sand (to some degree of course) little of the hoof wall was removed.

    CP- I think the flashiness and excessive crap is a sign of the times in a "Keeping up with the Jones" sort of way. Someone does something to their horse to help them stand out from the crowd. They do it for one show and next thing you know every horse in the ring is sporting the same look at the next show. Fads come and go- be they clothing, tack or grooming. Diamond tips, pastern points, tail blocking, gingering, weighted shoes, stacked overgrown hooves, blingy tack, crystal covered second skin shirts, fringed or scalloped chaps, caked on makeup- all of it started somewhere by one person doing it and others copying it with their horse.

    The clubs and organizations also seem to compete when it comes to who hosted the better show? Why? Sure they want the entries to go up, and the $$$ generated from that, but what is funny is when they are 'competeing' but using the same facility where they hold their show.

    They want to increase the number of entries and exhibitors? Maybe we can all suggest a few things in another post.

  25. CP- in a quick scan through the pictures in your link about how the Arabs are shown in the UK vs. the US, I found several similarities.

    There are also a few glaring flaws, but all things where improvements could be made for the betterment of the breed, the shows and the way the horses are handled overall, no matter where the show is held and which country's ground they stand on.

  26. Yes, I saw some sanded hooves (and I forgot to say I'm not necessarily against it, within reason - white hooves DO look a little grungy otherwise), and this and that, but I was fascinated by the "hairy" ears ... which look a little silly when they gooped up the muzzle and around the eyes.

    I was surprised by the lack of saddleseat. I guess that's a purely American invention... duh, they're called Kentucky Jodhpurs!.... and charmed by the hairy muzzles on some horses, yet they'd bothered to brush squares on their butts! I'm just endlessly fascinated by the differences.

    Like in Pulp Fiction! Royale with Cheese!!!!

  27. CP- I was looking more at the halters with the thin bradoon bits attached with clips (8th row down, 2nd from right), the halters with bits where the lead chain run through them (there were a few of these) and the one handler who didn't button up or tuck in her shirt.

    There was also one horse who is so narrow based in front and seemed to be standing on crooked legs... Not things anyone may wish to pass on to the next generation. While these things may be allowed in other places, they are not all good indicators of things being any better abroad.

    My feelings on halter are, if you cannot control your horse without reverting to lip chains and bits in their mouth, why are they in the ring? But there again, that could be another entire discussion in and of itself. Another topic for the blog...

  28. Dena: I left my morals at that door, ask CNJ...
    Funny CP you should bring up US vs UK. We now have a French bred Arabian at the Stable. I'm amazed (I know I know CNJ..stop shaking your head) that folks only know the POS Arabians. Everyone is amazed at his temperment, bone and scope. I (of course) am not. I grew up riding everything..Still think GRADE is a good thing at times.
    As CNJ points out he's a tad narrow in the chest. Does he have perfect conformation? hell no that's why he's a gelding. But since people don't bother to educate themselves..he's an "award" winning AayyyRab. sigh. He is a doll but so are alot of American Bred Arabians

  29. Well, of course there are less than perfect horses on the UK site... but I saw a couple under saddle that looked AWESOME.

    I didn't like the bridoon/chain combo either - and the girl showing belly skin cracked me up. Some tacky outfits!!

    But it kind of highlighted that they're there to show the HORSE in-hand.

    Yup, I'm also annoyed when people assume that them thar ay-rabs is CRAAAAZY.

    Um, no, only sensitive and unwilling to put up with good ol boy bullshit.

  30. CnJ said, "...all of it started somewhere by one person doing it and others copying it..."

    Don't forget that the imitators' thought processes go like this: "There can't be anything wrong with MY horse or MY riding, so he/she must have won because of [add stupid thing here]! Therefore, if I do that, I will win!"

    And once whatever it is becomes commonplace, some judges won't place a horse without it.

    Somehow, I don't expect to see any WP horses in plain tack, with a rider in plain clothes, win any time soon, do you?

    All we used on the Saddlebreds (back in the early '70s) was shoe polish. The liquid kind in the sponge bottle. It came with its own shine, and wore off fast after the show. Black or neutral. For striped hooves, we put neutral on first, then black on the stripes.

    But no sanding.

    I don't know if it still exists, let alone what harmful ingredients it may have had, or now has.

    Me? I don't think I'll sand. Scrub with terrycloth, soap, and water, sure. I'll use wax or polish if I think it's safe.

    Oh, and you can get those sanding sponges for less than a buck at building suppliers.