Hoof nipper maintenance begins with proper usage of the tool, according to Smith. Use the tool for its intended purpose. And when you are using it for trimming, cut flat and don't pull and aim for a flat cut.

Keep dirt and debris from building up between the stops. "When you nip those long feet, make sure your tops are clean between each cut," advises Smith. "If you don't, you will spring your nippers and the blades won't line up as you continue to squeeze the handles."

In addition to the stops, Smith recommends cleaning the bottom of the horse's foot before you take the nippers to it.

"Dirt, sand and small rocks are abrasives and will reduce the life of your nippers," he says.

Mind the feet that have some hoof wall separation, because debris may tuck away into the white line and could harm your blades. "Clean this area with a brush."

Overall, make your cuts count. "All cutting tools have a certain life expectancy and the more cuts you make, the sooner your nippers will need to be replaced," warns Smith.

Pete Rosciglione, a horseshoer from Defiance, Mo., uses the 6-inch wire wheels on his bench grinder to clean his nippers every 2 weeks.

"They will always get oxidation on them, so I put the nippers on the wire buffers, and after they are done, they look new and shiny," says Rosciglione.

"Of course, never use them for anything other than trimming hooves. If you nip nails with them for clinching or try to pull shoes off, they will get gouges and will hardly cut."

Rosciglione sprays the tool with WD-40 and then wipes them off with a shop towel to prevent dust and debris from sticking to the nippers.

His preference is to pay for the highend models, although he jokes it is more difficult to pay for them than to care for the nippers.

Avoiding that debris build up is why Brian Hull avoids oiling nippers early in the day. "Also, stuff will collect in the rivet, causing early wear," says the Canadian shoer.

Keeping them clean is more of a commitment to putting them back in the shoeing box when not using them, and never tossing the nippers on the ground, where they can collect dirt and debris.

Be mindful of your storage, simply to avoid unnecessary contact. "Don't put the nippers among the other tools in the shoeing box, but keep them separate and treat them like you would your rasp," advises Hull. "Steel rubbing against steel over time will wear away at the cutting edge."

Martin Kenny of Carthage, N.C., doesn't use his nippers as frequently as most shoers. He prefers the rasp, as he keeps his clients' horses on a 5-week trimming rotation. Regardless of the frequency of using the tool, he says you must properly store nippers to prolong the longevity.

"I store them in a PVC pipe holder with a PVC bottom to keep them from being knocked around in my box, as I do all my hand tools," says Kenny.

"Of course, don't toss them in the dirt- always good common sense for all tools. If you take care of your tools, they will last a long time."

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