How much pressure can you use when picking a horse’s hoof?
That depends on what kind of environment the horse is in. If the horse is in a dry environment, then you can use quite a bit of pressure to pick your horse’s hooves without worrying about hurting the horse; but if it has been raining and the horses have been dealing with a lot of mud it is best to use more caution. When riders come out for our horsemanship trail and I see them attempt to pick a hoof for the first time, almost every single person expresses that they are concerned that they are going to hurt the horse by pushing down too hard with the hoof pick. But the reality is that whether the horse is in wet or dry conditions, it would take a lot of brute force to do any kind of real damage to the horse’s frog just by trying to pick it out. Mud can make the hoof and frog softer, but if the conditions are healthy then it should not usually affect the hoof to the point that it is so sensitive that it can be damaged by someone picking it out. A good way to check is to touch the frog and feel if it is soft or hard. When the frog is not healthy it will get brittle and soft almost like a harder version of clay, sometimes pieces will fall and break off. The frog and hoof can even get too dry during the summer months and it is good to give a treatment with hoof conditioner, or even just walking the horse through a CLEAN puddle of water is beneficial to the hydration of the hoof if it is too dry.
-MK, A Maverick Horseback Riding Instructor and Guide