A loose shoe can pose a potential danger to the horse in certain circumstances — for example if the shoe is misplaced or the nails are protruding — says Ross Eager, retained farrier at Liphook Equine Hospital.

A bent shoe can damage the horse’s leg, as can a risen clench (the point of the nail as it protrudes from the hoof wall) which might easily cut the horse’s adjacent limb. A nail could also penetrate the sole of the horse’s foot.

For these reasons, Ross feels it is essential for every horse owner to know how to remove a shoe in case of emergency.

However, if only one clench has risen, or one nail is slightly loose, then as long as the shoe is still positioned where it should be on the horse’s foot it shouldn’t pose a risk to the horse. In this instance, just wrap up the foot in some duct tape as a temporary measure. This will keep the horse safe until the farrier is able to attend to him.

If in doubt as to whether the positioning of the shoe or nails poses a danger, you are better to take off the shoe, at which point it can do no harm.

In the video above, Ross shows us how it’s done safely.

4 steps to take when removing a horse’s shoe

1. In order to remove a horse shoe, you will need a buffer with a blade, plus a mallet — and failing this an adapted buffer with a broad enough surface on the opposite side of the blade in order to use a hammer on this. You will also need a pair of pincers and possibly a rasp. It is sensible for every yard to have this kit.

2. Make sure that both you and the horse are comfortable, standing on level ground and in a sheltered area. The job will be a lot harder — and potentially dangerous — if the horse is jumping around. Wearing a hard hat, face the horse’s quarters and hold up his hoof between your legs as pictured.

3. Find each clench — the tip of the nail — and position the blade of the buffer between it and the hoof wall. Tap the buffer with the mallet to straighten out the hooked nail end. Alternatively, taking the foot forward and positioning it on a stool, rasp off the clench hook, leaving only the straight nail.

4. One at a time, pincer the head of each nail and work it out of the shoe. If you can’t get a grip on a nail head, position the pincer ends around the side of the shoe at the heel, pinch the handles together and rock them away from you. This will bring the shoe away from the foot, freeing stubborn nail heads.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound Ask The Vet, Spring 2014