Principles of Donkey Hoofcare

© Anya Lavender.









A donkey's feet are different in shape from a horse's and often appear steeper, but the basic principles are the same

  • The walls are rasped at the ground surface so that they are near level with the outside of the sole. Each foot needs to be balanced correctly from side to side and from heel to toe. However, the quarters may need to be rasped slightly shorter than the heel and toe, to bring the walls level with the sole in this area.


  • Front feet should generally be a matching pair in length and angle, as should both back feet. Hinds should be steeper than fores.


  • The heels are short. The frog is flattened, wide and tough and in contact with the ground.


  • The frogs are trimmed of any daggy, dead material that is hanging off.


  • The bars are intact. They should be sloping down from the heel into the cleft, and only need trimming if they are sticking out a long way from the sole or are folded over the sole.


  • The concave part of the sole has been cleaned and flaky material scraped away.

  • The outside ground surface of the wall is rounded in a 'Brumby Roll', especially at the toe to prevent chipping on hard ground.



The above are general principles. Not rules to be forced onto a foot. It assumes the donkey's feet are relatively healthy to begin with. In dealing with hoof problems where the feet differ greatly from this model, or with hoof related lameness, special care and considerations need to be taken. It is beyond the scope of a website site to address all of the relevant issues and *knowledgeable* hands on help should be sought.


Now lets look at the differences...

A donkey's feet are more oval in shape to a horse, the quarter walls being relatively straight.

Heel bulbs are naturally more robust looking than a horse's frog/heel. Donkey's heels extend some way back past the heel corners of the wall.

Bars are short and angled strongly into the frog, unlike a horse's which run alongside the frog.

While I have found no studies on this(I have not dissected any donkey hooves or known of anyone who has done enough of this, or radiography, to make any statistical claims), donkey's feet tend to be naturally more upright than a horse's, and I suspect this is due to angle of P3 being steeper inside the capsule.

Alas and alack, I can also find no studies into assessing hoof balance as relates to outer 'landmarks', as the ELPO have done for horses. There does appear to 'want' more foot in front of the frog than a horse. As the frog is so much larger in relation to the horn, the length of the frog being approximately 2/3 the length of the entire foot, seems to be a good guide.




During a trip through the West MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia this year(2013) the 'desert' was rich with lots of water and green grass around. We saw heaps of fat feral brumbies, donkeys and camels. Unfortunately there were also dead animals, some horses that had been hit by cars, and some donkeys that had been recently shot and left there. However, these allowed me to get some rare pictures of healthy, strong donkey hooves! Without further ado...

Unfortunately for many donkeys, badly trimmed or neglected hooves are a way of life, as many farriers don't appear to have much knowledge of what a donkey's feet should be like. Therefore, hoof problems and lameness are also very common.

Because donkeys are designed to live on harder, rockier ground than many horses, their hooves are also harder and they don't do so well in the nice soft paddocks we usually put them in. In this environment they generally lack enough exercise, their hooves do not wear down and hoof mechanism is impaired. They often become very high heeled and contracted.


Unfortunately, this is the only model of donkey hoof many farriers and vets see, so it is commonly assumed to be the 'right' one, and trimming often perpetuates the problems.

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