How to pull a horseshoe


Dammit, your horse twisted and tweaked a shoe. Luckily, I know a horseperson (me) and a farrier (Ernest) who both have experience with pulling shoes. Ernest helps us with the technical side of things, and I stick to the funnies as we guide you through how to pull a horseshoe.


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  • If you own horses, work with horses, or even look at horses in a book, you will need to do this at one point or another… Pull a shoe yourself.  This inevitably will happen when you are far from the barn, it’s cold and/or rainy, and your Farrier is taking a vacation. Farriers are like Grooms – they deserve vacations, even if they are few and far between!



farrier pulling a horseshoe with nippers

Have your farrier give you a lesson at your horse’s next appointment for new wheels! I do not like this method of grabbing the shoe without having taken the nails out.


Why and how to pull a horseshoe.


  • You will sometimes see shoes that are tweaked a bit, maybe the end is pulled away from the foot. Sometimes the shoe is twisted, and sometimes crazy nails and clips go everywhere. In all of these situations, the shoe needs to be pulled to prevent injury and the nails/shoes from causing damage to the legs or nose, or belly.


In an ideal situation, you need the following farrier tools:


  • Cell Phone.

  • Farrier.


If you don’t have one of those handy, a well-prepared hoof emergency kit will have:


  • Shoe puller (logical name)

  • Mallet

  • Clinch Cutter

  • Crease Nail Pullers


farrier tools on a bench



At a bare-bones minimum, please have a:


  • Shoe puller


Remove the horseshoe without causing further damage.


  • First, you will need to remove the nails. The nail is first driven through the hoof, then the tip is bent over and rasped smooth, this helps hold the shoe on. So first you will need to bend those hooks up to make it easier for the nail to come out of the hoof and cause less damage.


  • So once you have crawled under your horse, into that lovely position that your farrier enjoys all day, use the mallet and cinch cutter to get underneath the clinch of the nail and tap the clinch back straight from the bottom up. The nail will then exit the hoof wall much smoother and cause less damage to the hoof wall as the nail is removed.


  • You can also file off the clinches or use nippers to snip them off. 


farrier using tools to remove nail clenches


  • Second, remove the nails. The crease nail pullers are ideal here, they can get into that groove that the nail sits in (called the crease, thereby “crease nail pullers”) and grab that nail. This is the safest way to pull a shoe off without causing damage because you are simply pulling the nail out straight and not putting any stress on the hoof wall.



  • Use pliers or your shoe puller if you don’t have one of these creased nail pullers. Likely, if the shoe is tweaked, you can bang the shoe back towards the hoof and the nails will poke out a little and be easy to grab and remove.


farrier using tools to remove a shoe


After the nails are out


  • At this point, if you can get all the nails out with the nail pullers, the shoe will fall right off.


  • If there are still nails in the shoe or you don’t have crease nail pullers, a pair of shoe pullers can also be used to pry off the shoe. This tool works best if you follow a simple pattern, insert the shoe pullers around the shoe towards the heel, grip tight, and push inward towards the toe. Remove and repeat on the opposite side of the shoe. Keep repeating this process moving the shoe puller forward an inch or so each time, always pushing in towards the foot. This will help prevent damage to the hoof.


  • When you get to the toe pull side to side and that shoe will fall right off. Holding on to the leg and bracing the hoof against your knee when using the pullers will make this whole process much easier and more effective.


And we all know how to pack and wrap a hoof, right? Having a roll of duct tape on your trail ride can help protect the foot while you ride back with no shoe on and can also be used to tape a shoe back on that is partially loose, enough to get you back to the barn.  Hoof boots are handy to have around for packing the hoof as well as protecting a shoeless hoof. 


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