Cindy’s hooves were looking bad. I had heard that goats needed their hooves clipped from time to time, but I tried to put that out of my mind for as long as possible. It was hard enough to get used to milking her; how we were supposed to get her to stand still while we inexpertly hacked away at her hooves was fairly inconceivable to me. Luckily, our good friend and experienced goat person, Malene, came to our rescue. Malene has three goats and is no stranger to the goat pedicure. She offered up an on-site primer and, let me tell you, this is one job you cannot learn from watching a YouTube video.
If you’ve ever trimmed your dog’s nails, then you have a tiny glimmer of an idea of what it is like to trim the hooves of a goat. They are alike in that they both make me kinda nervous and the potential for me making a mistake that could hurt them exists. Therein the similarities pretty much end.
The tool for the job looks like the love child of a pair of pruning shears and my grandmother’s old sewing scissors. It is a heavy beast that, when sharpened, slices right through goat hoof like a hot knife through butter. I wish I’d taken a “before” picture of her gnarly hooves, but trust me when I say that they were overdue for maintenance. Part of the problem is that Cindy spends her days in a lovely and lush setting that has no concrete, cement, or even stones upon which to do a little cursory nail filing. The result is a hoof that becomes overgrown and soft–a perfect breeding ground for fungus when combined with a little rain and some muddy earth and hay.
Getting Cindy’s hooves taken care of was decidedly a two-person job. Deciding ahead of time that I would be the Hoof Trimmer and Dave would be the Goat Holder, we embarked upon our tutorial.
Step 1: Assume The Position. Using your most deft wrestling maneuver, pull the goat’s opposite legs toward you from underneath her. This will drop her to her side allowing you to begin.
Step 2: The Goat Holder must effectively hold the goat in a loving, full-body embrace, allowing the Hoof Trimmer to begin cutting the hooves without being kicked, butted, or gored.
Step 3: Trim the hooves WAY more than you think you should. You must be careful not to use the tip of the trimmers as they are wicked sharp and could do damage. The dirt that is embedded in the hoof is actually a useful guide as to how much more hoof can be cut away.
This part reminded me of that old quip about how to sculpt an elephant. The sculptor says to just chip away everything that isn’t an elephant and you’ve done it. This felt like that. Except with mud. And writhing.
Step 4: Ensure that the hooves match one another. When Malene let me have a crack at one of the hooves, I timidly left one half too long and was told to finish the job lest my goat break an ankle trying to walk on my shoddy, wobbly work.
Step 5: Release the goat and stand back.
The hoof in this picture is half done. The lovely, clean, and finished top half is Malene’s beautiful and practiced handiwork. The other half is awaiting treatment . The difference was impressive. And while Cindy didn’t thank us directly, we’re all pretty sure she’s pleased with her pedicure. It’s simply GOT to feel better.
She did head back to the shed before I could offer her nail polish. Maybe next time.