Monday, October 28, 2013

Donkey Feet - Ramsey

I am putting up two back to back posts of donkey feet, one for Ramsey and one for Emma.  I will try to explain my thoughts and actions regarding both.  One of the good people at the UK Donkey Sanctuary has told me that she will get these in front of the farriers who work on the donkeys there and, hopefully, they will be able to give me some feedback.

I have heard that there is a big storm heading their way, I hope everybody stays safe over there!


My thoughts on hoof trimming stem from a lifetime with horses and a lot of studying, but I am basically self-taught.  Everything I write here is my opinion, based on this.  If any of the folks at the DS think that anything I post here is wrong or needs to be changed, please tell me.  Don't worry about my ego, I want to get this right.  I really want, need honest feedback, especially regarding Ramsey's bad foot. 

I find donkey feet to be VERY different from horse feet.  Some of the things that I notice and believe are:
  • The hoof is more elastic and flexible, but tougher.
  • It becomes quite soft in wet conditions, but hardens quickly when dry.
  • On soft, wet ground, the soles out-grow the walls and need to be trimmed back.
  • The heels and bars also overgrow and often leave the foot overly tall and boxy, preventing good development of the frog and shortening stride.  This is often considered normal, but I do not believe it to be true.  Donkey feet are more upright than horse feet, but the outer structure still needs to mirror the inner and a free stride with heel-first landing is just as important as it is in horses.
  • None of us get enough exercise.


I wrote a couple of weeks ago, that I was concerned about the distortion I am seeing in Ramsey's foot.  Last week, I had a new set of x-rays taken and there are some developments that I am not happy about. 

First, the good news: the coffin bone is aligned very well with the front of the hoof wall with no rotation or distal descent and there is 15 mm of sole depth (an average, healthy, 1000lb horse generally has 10-12 mm).

The bad news:  the sesamoid  bones, which are the big knobby things at the back of his leg, have a lumpy, uneven appearance.  This indicates a degree of sesamoiditis.  There is too much stress on the fetlock joint.  I do not know if this is entirely due to current stress or because the hoof was so horribly long after his surgery.  Probably both.

Then there is this next picture.  The image is reversed with the medial (inside) side on the left.
The bottom of the coffin bone should be parallel to the ground.  If you look close, you can see that the bottom of the bone is parallel with the bottom of the hoof.   However the hoof is not parallel with the ground because the hoof capsule is distorted.  He is bearing almost all his weight on the medial aspect of the hoof, putting a great deal of strain on the fetlock joint.  There are arthritic changes at the attachment points of the collateral ligaments.

Much of this strain is because Ramsey toes-out badly on this foot, called a fetlock valgus.  Many donkeys toe out, including Emma.  She also toes-out worse on her right foot than her left.  However, I have been able to keep her feet in balance.  Ramsey's other foot also toes out some, but it too is in balance.  I do not know if I messed up the trimming on this foot or if this is a byproduct of his surgery.

Wall separation where coffin bone is missing.

The medial wall has lots of growth, but curves under.  The lateral wall flares and has poor attachment. 

I trim the medial wall as flat and level as possible and bevel the lateral wall to encourage attachment and relive stress where the coffin bone is missing.

The twisting distortion in the whole hoof can be seen in the way the frog bends, it should not do that.

As trimming alone does not seem to be helping this problem, I have decided to give this foot some more support using SuperFast, made by Vettec.  This is a two part urethane that hardens and bonds to the foot very fast once the parts are mixed together.

Once it sets, it can be shaped with a rasp.  

My goal was to extend the foot medially so that it won't fall inwards.

I left the medial side just a little thicker to try to level the foot a bit.

I do not want to cause problems by over-correcting the foot so I tried to be very conservative.

The good thing about this, is that, if I need to I can change or remove it almost instantly.  I just did this this morning and I will be watching him very carefully.  So far, I think it is helping.  He strides out well on it and the foot seems more stable.  I believe it will need to be adjusted or replaced every two weeks at the most. 


Ramsey's good front foot.  The medial wall is thicker and stronger here as well, lateral wall wears off.


His back feet....This really shows how much the sole outgrows the walls.

I did finally trim the sole back to the level of the hoof wall and this is what it looked like three days later.

It has been drier since I took these and his feet are staying level at the moment.

Any constructive criticism or advice welcome!


  1. Little donkey feet, so cute :)
    I wish I could help, but I am in the beginning stages of learning hooves myself. I find them so interesting!

  2. Very interesting . I hadn't kept up with all the info you had posted with their feet perhaps. They sure do look different than our horses. On the donkey that has the sole farther down than the hoof wall (hope I am saying that right) had he foundered before ? , or is that the way donkeys soles are?

    1. That is the way they are when living on overly soft terrain. They are meant to be running in the desert and our soil does not provide enough abrasion for them.

  3. No criticism from me, but thank you for sharing your foot-evaluations with us. The detail you provide is so clear that I can understand it. I hope that the Superfast material helps stabilize Ramsey's foot so that it can grow out properly. If that does happen, will the arthritic developments clear up? I hope so.

    Also, I find myself oddly fascinated by the xray of the block of wood. I never would have anticipated that the internal structure of the wood would show up that way!

    1. I don't know the answer to the arthritis question, it is one of the things I hope to learn more about.

      I find the x-rays of the block of wood fascinating as well:)

  4. After all Ramsey has been through with his "bad" hoof, I find it amazing that he would be so patient with your prodding and photographing! Just from the pictures he looks so very patient with all the handling. He and Emma are wonderful donkeys!!

    Nancy in Iowa

    1. I put a dish of soaked hay pellets in front of him and, as long as the food holds out, you could do just about anything to him:)

  5. Very interesting, even though I know nothing about this. You are amazing!!

  6. I am right there with the crowd above! Very interesting, but I know nothing about donkey feet.

    But, I do know I love learning about these products you can use to support a hoof without shoes. I come from a small town where shoeing horses is the norm if they are in work or sore for any reason. I have been able to keep my horses barefoot, but sometimes had to really limit my riding to avoid shoes. Luckily, not too often, but it's nice to know there are so many more options I can bring up, now that I am near a larger city (and more educated hoof care professionals). But since I have a only a mustang right now I should be good! :)

    1. You might want to check out the hoof boots at All of our horses wear the easyboot gloves for riding. We generally get at least two years out of a pair so they are much cheaper than shoes and better for the feet.

  7. Really interesting post. Sorry I'm too much of a novice to offer any constructive advice. What you're doing makes sense to my little brain, and I hope the Donkey Sanctuary's farriers give it the thumbs up.

  8. Your foot work is fascinating and I too love the wood grain :-).