Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hoof Clinic - part one

Tuesday morning, we loaded Ramsey into a trailer at an ungodly hour for the three hour trip to the Pete Ramey donkey hoof clinic.  For anyone who does not know who Pete Ramey is, he is one of the foremost experts in hoof care in the world.  You can learn more about him at his website. I have studied nearly all of his DVD's and books along with that of many other hoof care practitioners.  His work has been, by far, the most useful to me and has helped give me the fundamental understanding of hooves that has let me keep Ramsey alive, happy and sound.  I feel like Ramsey's foot is finally in a good place, but I know that I would always regret it if I had not taken this rare opportunity to have Pete see Ramsey.

I am sorry to say that the trip was a rough one for my little brown donkey.  He was much more stressed by it than I had thought he would be and things were not helped by the fact that the route to New Paltz was three hours of twisty, windy, hilly driving that went straight through the heart of the Catskills.  If I had known ahead of time what the drive would be like, I don't think I would have taken him.  It was a beautiful drive and I would like to revisit some of those mountains, but NOT with a loaded horse trailer.

Once we got there and Ramsey was off the trailer, he took in everything with this normal aplomb and started to settle down.

He had his own stall in the barn with a friendly donkey gelding next to him for company.  He was not happy about it.  Ramsey hates, HATES(!!!) being locked up away from the action.  It is the one thing he just is not good at and even though I was only a few feet away from him, he was not happy.  He wanted OUT.

And, he missed his mom. 

Emma seemed to do just fine without him, but Ramsey was not a happy camper.  He did finally settle in a bit.  He charmed everyone he met (as usual) and garnered much sympathy with his sad warbling. 

He really did very well given the circumstances, his history and his age.  The one thing that really surprised me was just how uninterested he was in meeting the other donkeys.  He just wanted to be with me, out of his stall and away from all the other donkeys.  It just goes to show, yet again, how different donkeys are from horses.

There is no way that I can encapsulate the entire clinic for you.  What I would recommend if you own a donkey or have any interest in how to care for them is that you get a copy of Pete Ramey's DVD set, Donkey Hooves Inside and Out.  Even if you are not interested in trimming yourself, the DVD is an excellent resource for all donkey owners.  Most of what was covered in the clinic can be found there.  I've watched just about every donkey hoof care video that I have ever come by and this is by far the best.

The one common theme that came up over and over in both the clinic and the conference that followed was nutrition, nutrition, nutrition.  No amount of trimming will ever grow a healthy foot without the right nutrition.

This is something that I know very well and can attest to personally.  Trying to trim an unhealthy, poorly nourished hoof is an exercise in profound frustration.  You will never fix a hoof problem without first fixing the underlying nutrition and/or metabolic issues.

I actually have several blog posts on this subject that I wrote over a year ago and never published.  I am not sure why exactly, except that I got discouraged by how much active resistance I kept running up against.  People just did not want to hear about it.  No one wants to believe that the way they are feeding their animals may be the cause of all their problems nor will they believes there even IS a problem until the horse or donkey comes up dead lame.  I think I will try to dig those posts up and brush them off.  I know there are at least few people out there who may appreciate them.

Below are some preserved cadaver hooves from a donkey who certainly could have used a change in his diet. This is by no means the worst foot I've seen, but you can clearly see how the hoof wall is separated from the bone at the toe.  This is very common and the primary cause is too much sugar in the diet.

On the other hand (or hoof) this is a very nice little hoof on a mini donkey that Pete had just trimmed.

Aren't they just the cutest little feet?

There were ten minis at the clinic and they made Ramsey look huge.  The tallest was around 32 inches and the smallest was barley knee high.  I think I could have picked her right up and carried her off.  They were all very sweet and adorable, but I think I like my standard size donkeys - they are just the perfect size for hugging, no bending or kneeling required:).   

Then there was this poor creature.  Not cute at all.

You can see from her radiographs that her coffin bone has sunk down into the hoof capsule quite a lot so, even after her trim, her feet will still look long.  With regular care that should improve.  

 Her hind feet have gotten so long that she is tipped backward with the hair line pointing nearly straight up.  There is no way to know before trimming if she will be able to stand correctly once her feet are fixed.

After trimming the heels and giving her a stable base, it is time to whack off those crazy toes.

 This is the same donkey after her trim. 

It was very encouraging to see her legs pop back up and allow her to stand more normally.  She will need time for her tendons and ligaments to readjust themselves.  As she begins to move normally again, her feet will improve even more.

With regular care, she will be able to live a comfortable, happy life.

If anyone has specific questions, I will try to answer them.  In my next post, I'll tell you all about what you really want know - how Ramsey's feet measured up.


  1. What? No Border Collies or cute Maremma puppies at the clinic? What kind of clinic is THAT?

  2. I mean really, you think all these blog-land readers would rather see a dead donkey foot than a cute Maremma puppy? I don't think so!

  3. Glad your back! It sounds like Pete is a very valuable resource. I'm just astounded by what can be done by a knowledgable person to restore such a badly deformed foot. It hurts me to think about the pain the animal must have been in.

  4. What a great clinic to go to. I've seen Donkeys that have had no foot care and it is a shame.
    I would appreciate those posts about feeding. I agree with you so much.

  5. You're so right Kris… we're waiting for the real news!!! :)

  6. This was very informative! I really enjoyed reading it. Now can you do one on goat hooves?

  7. What a difference a good trim makes...I look forward to reading those nutrition/metabolism hoof related posts. While they may fall upon deaf ears, others are listening & learning. The knowledge & time you clearly put into sharing info is appreciated. No doubt Ramsey's feet/care will get a gold star, but there is usually a valuable take-away that makes the travel and time worthwhile. What was it for you?

  8. The relationship between hooves and diet is SO important to understand. I am constantly tweaking my feed regime and I'm never quite satisfied that I've got it right, especially since low sugar hay is nearly impossible to find! The donks are getting just 1 hour of grazing per day right now and boy, can I ever see the effects on their hooves! Farrier coming this morning - will be interesting to see what he thinks.

  9. So dramatic to see the difference in that last donkey's stance with just a proper trim. So glad she is with someone that is going to care for her now (I hope). I'm sure now that Ramsay is home all is well wit h the world and yes, the trip was stressful for him but hey, how else is a Mom to find those things out! :) So glad you got to go!

  10. Brilliant opportunity and I'd say in the long run you'll be glad you brought Ramsay. I'm looking forward to learning what Pete had to say about him

  11. I don't have donkeys or horses but I find your blog fascinating! Bring on the nutrition / hoof care blog posts. Glad you had an educational time at the conference. And yes, patiently waiting to hear how Pete liked Ramsey's feet. You take such great care of your animals; I'm just sure he had many compliments for you.

  12. I have Pete's donkey video, and I try to convince my neighbors (where I board my mini donks) that they don't need such good hay (I've given up trying to get them to feed straw). Especially when people have horses, it is hard to convince them how different donkeys really are

  13. I stopped by to check on you! I am curious what he said about your Ramsey too. He should read your blog posts from back then. Good for you to get away and learn good stuff! :)

  14. Can't wait for Part Two so we can hear about our boy Ramsey. You're so lucky to have such an authority on donkey hooves to consult with. Take care!

  15. Kris will you please send me your email addy? TIA!

  16. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you will be a great author.

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    in the future. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great posts,
    have a nice morning!

  17. Thank you so very much for this information. I'm ordering the dvd set. I can't find a ferrier to trim my donkeys corectly.