Even if your all-time favorite thing to draw is a horse, you probably don’t love drawing the feet. Learning how to draw a horse hoof was among the biggest challenges I faced when I decided to become a horse portrait artist.
I suppose that’s why I spent so many years drawing heads!
If you have the same difficulties, it’s time to take the bit in your teeth and get over this obstacle!
Are you ready? Let’s go!
There are any number of ways to draw a horse’s feet. Front, side, back, just to name a few. Then there’s the foot in motion. How do you begin to tackle all those positions and angles?
The best way to begin is by learning how to draw better feet standing still. So that’s our subject today.
As Unique as Fingerprints
A horse’s hoof structure is as unique as a human fingerprint. While the general shape may be the same or similar, the relationship of size, slope, heel, toe, and a number of other details are unique from one horse to the next; sometimes from one hoof to the next.
If you’re working on a conformation pose such as Salt Lake in Colored Pencil, getting the shape of each hoof correct is as important as getting the hip or shoulder right. It’s less important in an action image, but it is still important.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you step-by-step how to draw a standing hoof based on this reference photo.
NOTE: This tutorial is all about making the line drawing. Whether you paint or draw, an accurate line drawing is the first step in creating realistic artwork. The steps I’m about to show you can be used with any hoof in any position. The fact of the matter is that these steps can be used with any subject!
Let’s get started!
How to Draw a Horse Hoof Step-by-Step
Step 1: Begin with the big, basic shapes.
Start with the overall shape, and begin by taking a good look at your reference photo. How long is the toe? How shallow is the heel? What angles are created between hoof and ankle?
Using light pressure and a medium softness drawing pencil (2H, HB or F, 2B) or a colored pencil that’s light in color, sketch the basic contours. Don’t be afraid to erase and redraw as many times as necessary to get a good likeness.
I used an F graphite pencil. At this stage, I’ve drawn and redrawn the hoof to get the best possible shape and position. The lighter lines are the first lines. The darker lines are the corrections and refinements that followed.
Step 2: Begin adding details to the basic shapes.
Once you have the overall shape in place, begin placing details like the coronet band (the ring around the top of the hoof.) Take your time working through this part of the process.
If it helps to do multiple drawings on tracing paper, take the time to do that. Lay a fresh piece of tracing paper over the current drawing and transfer the drawing. Refine it as you transfer it.
You can then work on the drawing from the front and the back, which helps correct any right-hand or left-hand drawing bias you might have.
Repeat the process as often as necessary because this is the best way not only to get an accurate drawing of this particular hoof, but to learn the basic structure for all hooves.
Step 3: Add smaller and smaller details each time you rework the line drawing.
When you’re satisfied with Step 2, start with a fresh sheet of tracing paper. This time, as you transfer the drawing, begin adding smaller details. Add stripes or other markings on the hoof. Add leg markings if there are any. Don’t forget the growth rings and the shoe, if the horse is shod.
You can even do a little modeling if you want, just to check the three-dimensionality of the drawing.
For this stage, I switched to a 6B graphite pencil to get a good, solid line drawing.
I also used a variety of line types to develop the drawing. Solid, slightly darker lines mark the outside edges and edges between shapes. I outlined the highlight on the hoof with a dotted line. Short, vertical strokes define the line between hair and hoof as well as the white marking.
I drew shadows with a heavier line. The softer lead pencil facilitated the different types of lines I used.
TIP: I use line darkness and type to draw the various parts of a subject because it’s less confusing than using a similar line to draw everything. I learned this method when I learned how to draw pictorial depth in a Craftsy course on landscape drawing. Since then, I’ve discovered it has a variety of uses.
It’s not as important with simple drawings like this, but it is very useful in more complex compositions.
The Finished Drawing
Whether you continue working with graphite for a finished study, or create a study in another medium, you’re now ready for the finishing work.
Learning More About Drawing Hoofs
I recommend hoof studies for every work you do that shows feet, especially portraits.
Every hoof is different and unique. A discerning and involved horse lover may very well be able to see that the hoof in your artwork is not their horse’s hoof.
Whether you draw from life or from photographs, every hoof you draw will help you draw the next one more accurately.
And let’s face it, if you know how to draw a horse’s hoof, you can pretty much draw anything!