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How to Pull A Shoe

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On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, a woman walks out to the field to get her horse. She has plans for a wonderful long ride through the country. As she approaches her steed, he gives her a baleful look and hobbles awkwardly towards her. With her heart in her mouth she begins to examine him, and finds, much to her relief that the problem is not a lameness.

What she has found is one shoe rather mangled and twisted off to the side. The nails are sticking out all over the place, and the shoe is in a position to severely cut the horses opposite leg.

The shoe needs to come off NOW. A call to her farrier is unproductive. He is off fishing with his son. How is she going to deal with this situation? She must pull the shoe herself.

Fortunately, if you know how and you have as few as three simple tools, the process isn’t too difficult. I’ll go over what you need (your farrier may be willing to sell you used tools, or you can buy them new from catalogs or tack, feed, or farm-supply stores. Since you’re not planning a career in farriery, “bottom of the line” models are just fine). Then I’ll show you several ways of pulling shoes: with a clinch cutter and hammer, followed by pulloffs, and with a rasp, crease nail-puller, and maybe pulloffs. The first method is faster, and the one farriers use in most cases; the second, slower but equally effective, is the one you’ll need if a bruise or abscess has made your horse’s foot too sore to withstand the impact of the hammer and clinch cutter.

Farriery toolsHere, from left to right, is the full range of tools I use for pulling shoes: pulloffs, hammer (below) and clinch cutter (above), crease nail puller, and rasp, all laid out beside the leather and canvas apron I wear to protect my legs. (Leather is safer than cloth – it’s tougher, and it can’t snag a nail and attach me to a half shod hoof the way cloth can.) If your horse is in a boarding barn, you and the owners might want to chip in and get a similar full set of tools, and an apron as well. But if you’re on your own, you can get by with just the rasp, crease nail puller, and pulloffs.
This ---
Not this.
Lay your tools where you can reach them but your horse (on cross ties or held by a helper) won’t step on them. Then position yourself so you have leverage and can use your strength without fighting your horse. If you’re working on a front foot (I’ll give some special hints for hind feet later), stand as close to him as you can, slightly pigeon-toed, to make your knee grip stronger and to lessen chances he’ll step on you. Keep your back straight and your shoulders above your hips at all times, and bend your knees. Now grip the foot, between your thighs if you’ll be using a hammer and clinch cutter. Caution: Never put a finger or thumb where it could get caught under a partially pulled shoe if your horse jerks his foot away suddenly.
Cutting the Clinch 1
Cutting the Clinch 2
Your first task is to get rid of the clinches: the folded-over nail tips on the hoof wall that hold the shoe on. One way to do this is to “break” – straighten – them with the clinch cutter and hammer. Work the wide blade end of the clinch cutter under the edge of a clinch and hit the cutter’s broad opposite end smartly with your hammer a couple of times, until the clinch straightens. (In an emergency, you can use a rock to drive the edge of a flat-bladed screwdriver or a chisel under the clinch.) Repeat with each clinch around the foot.
For the second method, rasping off the clinches, place your horse’s foot on your knee (as your farrier did when he set the clinches and finished the foot). Then, using the fine side of the rasp, rasp each clinch in turn until it’s flush with the hoof wall, being careful you don’t rasp a hole in the wall.
Not like this...
Like this:
Your next step is to remove the shoe with your pulloffs. Starting with one handle in each hand, bring the handles together and completely close the jaws of the pulloffs around the outside heel of the shoe, behind the last nail. Then, with both hands around both handles, rock the handles toward the toe and back toward the heel several times to loosen the shoe a little. Do the same on the inside heel.
Next, starting with the outside heel again, grab the shoe where you did before and, gripping the foot firmly between your legs, give the pulloffs a sharp, quick push away from you, toward the toe of the foot. The sharper and faster this movement, the more easily the shoe will come loose; if it’s slow and weak, nothing may happen. The quality of the movement is important because what you have to do is pull the “straightened” clinches (which really aren’t all that straight) back through the hoof wall so they’ll eventually come out; your quick jerk straightens them a bit more. Do the same on the inside heel of the shoe; then, repeating your outside-inside alternation, work forward gradually from the heel toward the toe until the shoe comes off.

Using a Crease Nail PullerThe alternate method is to use the crease nail-puller (which, like the rasp, is gentler on a sore foot). 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.

Whichever removal method you use, finish up by rasping the edge of the foot a little, especially toward the toe – just as you’d use an emery board to smooth off the jagged edge of a broken nail – so it won’t cut your horse (or you, if you pick up the unshod foot).

Pick Up a Hind Foot 2Pick Up a Hind Foot 1Now, as promised, here’s how to pick up a hind foot. Stand beside your horse, just ahead of his stifle (to reduce your chances of getting kicked), and with your back to his flank – you hold him off your body this way. After giving him a quiet pat on the rump to let him know you’re there, use the hand nearer him to pick up his foot, placing your hand just above the fetlock.

With your other hand, grasp the toe for control.When your horse relaxes his leg, step under it, placing the fetlock in your lap and against the inside of your inside leg, just above your knee; tuck your inside hip under the hock and against the gaskin.Press your hip lightly against the gaskin, and pull the foot out gently with your inside knee. This will lock the leg in place. Support the toe with your outside knee, and keep a hand on the toe at all times, except when both hands are full of tools, so your horse can’t put his foot down or jerk it away.

 
Pick Up a Hind Foot 3
Pick Up a Hind Foot 4
Pick Up a Hind Foot 5
Pick Up a Hind Foot 6
  Pick Up a Hind Foot 7 By following these instructions, you can remove a lose or bent shoe safely and correctly, without damage to the hoof, the horse, your fingers or face. If your horse is sore, or you know that he will be without the shoe, a quick and easy way to provide him some protection is to wrap the bare foot in a disposable diaper and duct tape. The padding will make him feel better, and also may prevent chunks of wall from breaking off.
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