Sanding Hooves

What is sanding hooves?

Sanding hooves is the process of carefully scrubbing and sanding away dirt and the outermost layer of the hoof in order to obtain a cleaned and polished hoof.

Why do we sand hooves?

Hooves that are sanded add an extra element of eye appeal in the arena.  People who have never sanded hoove often ask ” why does it matter if their hooves are sanded? They’re standing in the arena dirt anyway!”  Although this is true, sanding hooves matters because it is what the judges expect to see.  It is expected that every horse’s hooves be sanded and polished; if they are not they cause a huge distraction in the performance arena.

In the halter arena is where sanding hooves is the most crucial.  As the hoof grows the wall is impacted by environmental conditions and health issues.  So, the hoof wall will grow differently at different times creating a hoof that has “rings” or lines across the hoof wall.  If a halter horse shows with these rings across their hooves, the judge may suspect health concerns. These rings can be easily sanded off.


  • A hose with a spray nozzle with a “jet” setting
  • SOS pads (easily found in department stores in the cleaning section)
  • A small electric sander
  • Course-grain sandpaper, and fine-grain sandpaper that fit the size and shape of your sander
  • A sanding block
  • Clear hoof polish for white hooves, black hoof polish for black hooves.*

*Make sure to check with your specific horse association rules pertaining to hoof black.  Some breeds are not allowed to use hoof black for certain events.

Getting Started:

It is important that before you start the actual sanding process, all excess dirt and grime be scrubbed from the feet.  First you will need to spray all of the excess dirt off of your horses feet with your spray nozzle.  The “jet” setting works the best for this.

Before spraying


After spraying


Next, take your SOS pads and vigorously scrub as much dirt off of the hoof as possible.  You may need to use more than one SOS pad for multiple hooves.  Below is the same hoof after being scrubbed.


Now it is time for the electric sander.  It is important to realize that the hoof cannot be sanded when wet so you must wait until the hooves are completely dry before you start.  If your horse is not used to the sound the sander makes you will need to spend extra time desensitizing him to it before you can start.

First you will start with your course-grained sandpaper and sand away as much of the rings of the hoof and dirt as possible.  You must hold to hoof like a farrier would, with the hoof lifted towards the front of the horse and the leg resting on your leg.  If this is too hard for you to achieve invest in hoof stand so you don’t need to hold the leg up.  It is important to realize that if your horse wears shoes, the nails of the shoe will easily tear apart the sandpaper.  Therefore, it is important to avoid sanding any areas with nails sticking out.

Below is the hoof after sanding with course grain. Because of the obvious rings still apparent you can tell that this hoof is not yet finnnished.


Once you have sanded away all of the rings and dirt from the hoof repeat the process with your fine grained sandpaper.  The fine grain will create a smooth, polished look that the course grain cannot achieve.

At the Show:

Every time you bathe your horse at the show use an SOS pad on the hoofs so they are always clean.  At least an hour before you go into the ring take your horse into an aisle that is free of dirt and clutter, and preferably concrete.  First pick out the hoof like any other day and sweep away the dirt that comes out.  Next, take your sanding block and touch up your hooves sanding away any left over or new dirt.  Take your hoof polish that matches the color hoof you are working with, and carefully wipe the sponge applicator across the coronary band.  Excess polish will drip down the hoof but that is all right.  Continue wiping back and fourth across the hoof until you reach the bottom; make sure not to touch the applicator on the ground or it will become dirty.  Also make sure to view the hoof on the other side to check for any missed spots.  The most common missed spot is the heel.  Now, your horse must stand in the aisle until the hoof is completely dry!  If the hoof is even a little sticky dirt and shavings will stick to it and ruin all of your hard work.

Now your hooves and sanded, polished and show-ring ready!