Rescue by TAFE Hoof Care Course - Oct. 2007
Fortunately for Carla,
the 12 year old shetland pony mare, her condition was discovered just
prior to the TAFE Hoof Care Course. Her sad situation provided the
ideal opportunity for the students to observe how to assess, trim
and treat a pony whith hooves in such bad shape.
Carla's hooves were first
x-rayed by vet Adam Richardson, after nerve blocking her lower leg
so she could stand comfortably for the procedure.
Then after viewing the
x-rays, lecturer and professional hoof trimmer, Jeremy Ford, showed
how Carla could be trimmed and padded to enable her to hooves and
body start the healing process. She was then able to lie down to rest
her hooves and sore legs - something we hadn't seen her do in the
days prior to her treatment.
Students then took over
her daily care with changing the pads, soaking and cleaning her hooves.
Carla was also assessed by Chiropractor, Gaynor Ross who lectured
at the course, so that her body stifness from compensating with her
movement for so long, can be treated over time.
Now that the intensive
two week section of the course is over, Carla will live with Helen
Vagg, experienced pony carer and hoof trimming student from the first
TAFE intake in May.
You can view
more photos and video footage of Carla here.
DONKEY HOOVES --
A Hoof Trimmer's Perspective
© Glenn Wilson May 2010
"The best way to forget all your troubles is to wear tight shoes".
The donkey and horse version of the above is, "If my feet hurt
then I feel like crap". The reality is that too many donkeys
and horses suffer bad hooves - and they needn't - so their behaviour
is affected. It is our absolute duty, as the owners and carers of
these animals, to ensure that their hooves are in the best condition
The internet does have its usefulness. In the case that prompted this
article, a donkey owner found me on the internet, rang me to discuss
her donkey's hooves, emailed me some very clear pictures of said hooves
and donkey so I could see what she was describing, and later I Googled
"donkey hoof pathologies" and a whole lot of other articles
on Donkey hooves. Prior to this episode with Lily (the donkey), my
knowledge of and experience with donkeys and their hooves was fairly
slim. The flip side then is that there is really no excuse for donkey
owner, veterinarian, or hoof trimmer/farrier to be ignorant re their
hooves. All the information is there and it's free. All we gotta do
Hooves are generally a reflection of their environment. A hard, tough
environment will usually produce hard, tough hooves. A soft, rich
grass, moist environment is usually a disaster for hooves. Many animals'
hooves are a result of evolution and adaptation to the 'wild' environment
in which they have lived and evolved. In the donkeys' case, those
who live in harsh, rocky, mountainous terrain seem to have the 'ideal'
super tough hooves. Many domestic donkeys who live in the 'spare block'
or in the back yard, or by themselves often have less than adequate
hooves for optimum health and comfort.
This is not the end of the world though;
it's a pretty easy situation to remedy and can be as simple as having
regular hoof care applied, getting donkey company for a solo animal,
putting gravel down around the water trough and on the areas where
donkey moves most or even sacrificing the convenience of having donkey
living in the back yard and agisting him/her with other donkeys in
the rocky paddock nearby.
This last option is usually the sticky one for donkey and horse owners
alike. They fear they will 'lose control' of their pet, or it's not
convenient (for the person) so it is generally not considered an option.
But it does work and can be a win-win situation for animal and human
alike. The prerequisite is simply building a great relationship with
your donkey or horse first. They are both 'herd' animals and for their
mental and physical wellbeing, should have the company of their own
type with which to communicate, socialise, play with, learn from and
even squabble with. To achieve this donkey heaven it requires us,
as owners, to step outside our comfort zones and put the donkey first
- really first.
Donkeymanship. Not a pretty word really but one we
should all get familiar with. Having a well handled and cooperative
animal makes life easier for all concerned. From a hoof trimmers point
of view, we like to get our job over and done with quietly, quickly
and accurately. It's easier on us and the animal. We are not paid
to train the animal, nor should we have to, unless we are paid to.
A better option is for the owner to
build cooperation and understanding with the donkey, using sound 'donkeymanship
principals, from the first day it arrives in the paddock (born** or
delivered). That way you have an animal that is easier for you to
manage and the trimmer has an animal that very quickly understands
that giving its hoof and standing quietly while it is assessed and
trimmed makes for a better experience. It's a much nicer outcome.
A goal could be (and I use this with the horses in the 'home paddock')
is for the trimming to take place with the lead rope on the ground,
in the paddock, surrounded by the rest of the herd. That's cooperation
and understanding and it's fairly easy to achieve.
Lily's hoof problems. Having a sound knowledge of
the hoof, its function and most of the problems and solutions hooves
are associated with, makes it much easier for donkey owners to deal
with vets, trimmers and farriers. Having knowledge is empowering.
It's also a way of ensuring that you are getting value for money when
a practitioner does come to your place to see your animal.
In Lily's case, her owner called a vet to diagnose Lily's problem
which manifested in front hoof lameness, persistent coronary abscessing
from the lateral quarters in both hooves and a strong tendency for
Lily to 'toe walk'. The vet could see nothing really wrong with her
hooves and prescribed some antibiotics for the abscessing. Lily's
owner administered the antibiotics and thankfully kept looking for
an answer to her hoof problems and subsequently contacted me.
I found (and it was not difficult to spot either) was a sheared lateral
heel in one hoof (left: which I found some deep tissue infection and
fungal attack) and a similar, but deeper, hole in the seat of corn
area in the other hoof. No wonder this poor baby didn't want to walk
on her heels!
I dug gravel, wheat grain size and larger, out of cavities nearly
three centimetres deep into Lily's hooves. This was mixed with dirt,
fungus and black goo.
Imagine something like that between your toes or eating into your
heels! The cavities were cleaned, flushed and packed, and now we wait.
We wait and see what nature will do and observe and re treat the cavities
dependant on the healing process.
Lily's nutritional and mineral requirements are also being re-assessed.
Treating the hooves in isolation is wasting time and money. Treating
the hooves as an integral part of a living creature requires us to
look wholistically at the many co-joined factors that make up Lily.
Her age, her living arrangements, the season, the health of the soil
in which her pasture grows, what pasture is growing in her paddock,
what feed is brought in, donkey company, how much she moves, when
she is supplementarily fed, what her teeth are like, what her water
supply is, the amount of stress in her life, her natural demeanour,
mineral deficiencies and supplements, the relationship she has with
humans, and so on. There is more, much more, to a happy, content and
healthy donkey than meets the eye. Covering all these, and more, bases
does work though. It usually means less health problems for the animal,
less requirement for expensive vet visits, a longer, happier life
and smiles all round.
Very few veterinarians know what a healthy equid hoof looks like.
And by the same token many do not know what an unhealthy hoof looks
like especially if the pathology is subtle, one they haven't seen
before or simply one that may be an 'out of shape hoof'. The same
can probably be said for a great number of donkey and horse owners
General Hoof Care. Hooves of equids grow all the
time. The growth rate is variable and has to be considered along with
the wear rate of the hoof. More often than not domestic horses and
donkeys (maybe to a lesser degree for the latter) grow more hoof than
wears, due mainly to fences. Fences usually mean less movement and
less movement means less wear. Less wear means overgrown hooves and
overgrown hooves need constant management for the well being of the
animal concerned. Pathologies commonly found in domestic donkey and
horse hooves are uncommon in wild donkeys and horses.
We humans have inadvertently created a situation that causes our animals
to suffer, unless we become proactive and manage the situation, or
change the situation to better suit the animals' naturally evolved
Regular and appropriate hoof care is a non negotiable basic requirement.
Whether you learn to do it yourself or have a qualified or experienced
hoof trimmer or farrier do it for you; it has to be done.
Long, chipped, split or cracked hooves are simply painful for the
animal. Disease and fungal infections only add to the suffering.
Another reason why neglected hooves
are so common is that our donkeys and horses suffer in silence. If
they screamed in pain perhaps we would take more notice.
It is our duty to prevent suffering in the animals in our care.
If the above resonates with you (or if you feel uncomfortable and
a little guilty reading this), let's get on with the solution.