Check out this article at Natural Equine HoofCare, where they are dedicated to natural equine hoof care for all disciplines.
I'm very fortunate to live in the part of the country that still has Wild horse herds. Yes, they're probably some of the early settler’s animals that were turned loose to fend for themselves, but they're wild all the same.
I remember one day when I was working for the Forest Service I came upon one of the herds while out working. So I decided that I was going to "sneak" up on these guys and get a good look. So, with my camera in hand I went about making sure they were up wind from me and crept through the brush hoping to get close enough for a good telephoto shot. I was able to get a few treasured photos, but about the time I had that stallion magnified to HUGE in my camera lens, he let out a snort and stomped his hoof. Well you can guess I about fainted and took off running. Back then I didn't know anything about hooves and the thought would never have crossed my mind to take a picture of them. Too bad, hooves are my life now. I'd love to get a shot of them while they're still attached and running.
Because the natural trim looks SO much like our wild horses hooves I thought I'd share with you some of the pictures I shot the other day of some wild horse cadaver hooves from my area. Check out those beautiful mustang rolls, those full boisterous frogs, short toes...less than 3" on the largest hoof, and that perfectly mapped by God sole. Talk about the 1/3 2/3 rule! And YES, these were all from the same herd, living in the same terrain. Snow bound in 3-4' of snow, but still showing that beautiful mustang roll all the way around that hoof.
Interesting though, look a little closer and see that a few of them are not perfection. Some have a higher heel, some look like they have a sheared heel; one has an imbalance and looks really high on one side and some have flares. Makes you wonder.
Do mules and donkeys need boots?
Yes sometimes. Although mules and donkeys have thicker soles and walls...and basically have a stronger hoof, as you head into the high country or if you are transitioning a difficult case you may find that they need protective hoof boots. I have found that the Epic is working for myself and a few of my clients that are using them in the high country. Also another friend has found that the "Bare" is working well for her mule. Sometimes it is a little more difficult to fit the longears because their hooves are narrow vs. the rounder hoof of the horse. It may take some patience on your part and some creative ideas, but if you are determined you can succeed.
I've posted a few pictures of ideas to accomodate the longer hoof of the mule. Remember that you need to measure them from the tip of the toe to the back of their frog for their length. For a boot that "just about fits" in the length but not quite, you can add a little bit of length to a boot by removing the strap and installing the EZ Boot "Taper" which allows them to go strapless. The boots that Rosa is wearing in the pictures here are strapless and worked great on our "Ladie's Wilderness Pack Trip" into the Trenity Wilderness where the trails were covered with rock.
1st. Photo: Hoof length measurement.
2nd. Photo: Hoof width measurement.
3rd. Photo: Boot length measurement without the strap.
4th Photo: Shows the fit of strapless with the "taper." Strapless will work if the fit is a good one. Don't even try this without the gaiter it wont work.
5th Photo: Inside view of the strapless Epic w/taper installed.
6th. Photo: Rosa the all terrain vehicle.
7th Photo: You may notice that the Gaiter is too tight sometimes on a mule. You will see rubbing on the gaiter as pictured. One way to accomodate that wonderfully FULL digital cushion area on the mule is to buy one size larger gaiter than the boot. You will have to use a hole punch on the gaiter to make it fit the smaller boot screw holes, but with a little bit of fiddling around you can make it work.
8th Photo: Rosa w/Epic's on the Wilderness pack trip.
9th Photo: Handsome Henry with his Epics ready to rumble!
10th Photo: See the comparison of the small original gaiter (boot on the left side) vs. the larger gaiter with more room in that area on the left.
11th Photo: A boot with the strap that is making the boot too short. This is when you need to go strapless using the "taper".
EasyCare Office Manager
As the office manager, I make sure the general operations of the organization run smoothly and seamlessly from A to Z. I have been on the EasyCare team since 2001 and have first hand product knowledge as my horses are barefoot and booted.