Frank Ringel is fond of saying that the hoof knife works harder than any blade in use today.

“The bottom of a horse’s hoof is not conducive to cleanliness,” says the owner of Ringel Custom Knives in Florence, Mont. “There’s dirt, rocks, manure, sometimes you’re hitting nails that you can’t see.”

It’s hard to argue with him, yet those who use the knives — farriers and veterinarians alike — aren’t always proactive in maintaining the blade.

“People will send me a batch of knives to be sharpened,” Ringel says, “and they’ll have manure, dirt, blood and all kinds of stuff still on them.”

Leaving the debris not only encourages the knife to dull quicker, it can permanently damage the blade.

“That’ll eat away at an edge,” he explains. “Like a tomato eats away at a kitchen knife, manure has acids and stuff in it that’s no good for an edge of a knife. It will definitely corrode the blade and leave pockmarks on it that you can’t get out.”

All you have to do is clean off the blade and put it away dry.

“Make sure you keep it in a pouch, a pocket in your apron or some kind of sheath to protect it when it’s not being used,” Ringel says. “It’s amazing how much sharper it will stay.”