How to make your own hooves

The procedure outline below is for single-toed hooves: ie, horses, donkeys, and zebras. With some thought however, there is no reason why the same technique cannot be adapted for bifurcated hooves, so all you wouldbe unicorns, deer, goats, sheep, and cattle - don't despair:)

There are six stages:

  1. Design
  2. Tools & Materials
  3. The Armature
  4. The Underlayer
  5. The Outer Surface
  6. Cosmetics

If you have any problems, queries, or suggestions, please feel welcome to email me.

Step 1: Design

The first thing you need is a good idea of what you're out to emulate. You'll either need some good reference pictures, preferably from a veterinary text book or something similar, or you need to go out and look at the real thing. If you've chosen to model an equine hoof, this is no problem at all: pop along to the your local riding stables and ask to look at a horse's hoof.

If you're not used to horses, make sure someone knowledgeable is there to help. Most horses are used to having their feet handled but there is a right and a wrong way to go about it. If the idea of marching into a riding school and saying, "I'm making myself some hooves and I'd like to look at the real thing first," fills you with horror, a white lie will serve just as well: enjoy yourself: book a riding lesson, and say you'd like to learn how to groom a horse as well as ride him. This includes picking out the animal's feet, and there is no better way to get a feel for the shape involved.

The design is very simple: we're out to make a solid "glove" into which your clenched fist will fit, as shown in Fig.1. To disguise the join at the coronet, I used a sock, glued to the rim as shown, which adds a more realistic shape and texture too. The hoof itself is made from modelling putty formed over an armature of steel wire - don't worry: there's nothing very technical about this procedure!

Basic design
Fig 1.

With an idea of the appearance you are looking for, the next question is one of size. There are three points to address:

Clench your fingers and tuck your thumb aginst them like this:

Finger position
Fig 2.

The critical measurements you'll need to take in this position are the width of your fist across the knuckles (the widest point of your hand in this position), and the length of your longest finger from the top of the knuckle to the lowest point of the first joint: this helps govern the height of the hoof. A word of warning: don't assume your hands are identical!

Get some rough paper, lay it flat on a surface, and place your fist upon it, imagining it to be a hoof. Take a pen and roughly outline the base of your fist on the paper. Don't worry about being too accurate, but aim to err on the generous side. Now, keeping you hand in its hoof shape, lay it on its side, and trace that outline too. These two outlines will form the inner dimensions of your hooves: the size of the cavity that accepts your fingers. What you must do now is draw the outer surface, based on your knowledge of hoof shape around these outlines. The thicker the wall, the stronger the hoof will be, but also the heavier. Try to aim for a minimum of 5mm (1/4 inches) and remember a wire frame will be hidden within it. Make the sole about twice as thick.

Okay, now we're ready to move on to stage two.