Hoof care is the most important aspect of horse ownership. The first time horse owner usually does not understand the complexity of the hoof, even most experienced horse owners don’t. The easiest place to start your introduction to hoof care is to ask yourself just exactly what you are going to expect of your horse, and then set out to try and find an animal that will suit your needs. Don’t buy a draft horse to play polo. Don’t purchase an Arabian and try to cut cows with him. No matter what you and your prospective equine partner are going to do, the best thing that you can do is always place conformation over love at first sight; even though this is sometimes hard to do. Always strive to find a horse with straight legs and good bone structure. Remember, the better you start with the better chance that you will have to enjoy a long relationship with your horse. If possible, check out his sire and dam, or if possible any siblings that might be in the area. Keep this in mind, just because a horse is a pure bred it does not mean that he will be sound. Whether you are looking for a potential futurity winner or a trail buddy, soundness of the feet is the bottom line. A pre-purchase veterinarian check is a must, whether the horse is going to cost $500 or $500,000. If you can have a friend who is experienced with horses be there to lend a keen eye. Most importantly, to me at least, is to have a farrier present at your vet check. Often, farriers will see things that the vet will not. Farriers look at feet in a different fashion than a vet, based on their work, and experience. Also, do not fall in love too soon. All horses cannot be great athletes. In spite of what we may think, owning him does not make him a world beater. However, treat him like an athlete. Warm him up properly, feed a high quality ration, and keep him fit, not fat. The better that you treat him the better you will both work together. If everything is going along fine, but you begin to become suspicious that something may be wrong with his feet, you should look for an on again, off again, lameness in the beginning. Look for a choppy or uneven gait, a shortened stride, and a lessening of his willingness to work. If you notice any of the above traits, check the feet for an obvious trauma, such as a wire cut. You can also check for swelling and inflammation. However, it is always going to be the best practice to call your farrier out to take a look. Usually your farrier can make the proper corrections to get your pony back on the right track. If the problem is severe your farrier will refer you and your horse to your vet for medical attention. With a little care at the purchase of your horse, and a watchful eye during your partnership, your pony should have a minimum of hoof problems during his life.