Mustangs are often referred to as wild horses, but since all free roaming horses now in the Americas descended from horses that were once domesticated, the correct term is “feral horse.” The English word “Mustang” comes from the Mexican word “mesteno” which means “stray livestock animal.” The first Mustangs were of Andulusian and Arab history and were brought to Mexico and Florida. Some of these horses escaped or were stolen and rapidly spread through western North America. For the purpose of this article, we will refer to either “wild horse” or “Mustang.”
Wild horse feet are a product of a combination of genetics and lots of use over hard terrain as young horses mature and their feet develop. The end result is usually a very durable and easy to maintain foot.
As the Mustang adopter, you may find it difficult to find a farrier to trim your horse. On the other hand, you might find a farrier who doesn’t have a clue as to barefoot trimming, natural hoofcare or how a Mustang should be trimmed. Fortunately, most wild horse feet don’t require experts to maintain them and increasing numbers of adopters are doing their own trimming.
Most Mustang feet are very hard. You need good quality tools in order to cut through them. You will need high quality professional grade nippers, a hoof knife and a rasp. The cheaper nippers will be a struggle to use. You will need a small round file in order to keep your hoof knife sharp. Break the pointed tails off the rasp and either get a bulb or wrap the ends with vet wrap to avoid accidentally poking the horse in the belly. A set of leather chinks with a hoof knife pocket will also make the job easier and protect your pants from the rasp and the nippers. In addition, you can use EasyCare nitrile tough gloves to protect your hands.
You will likely need to use two hands on the nippers and we have found it very useful to have the EasyCare Hoof Jack. The EasyCare Hoof Jack consists of a standard base with 2 magnets, one standard cradle and one straight post with rubber cap. Along with the Hoof Jack, use the EasyCare Hoof Pick, which is magnetic and will stick to your hoof jack for convenience and are super strong.
Mustangs walk on the soles of their feet, not their hoof walls. If you had long fingernails, it would be very uncomfortable for you to hold yourself up on the tips of your fingers when on “all fours.” Your fingernails are designed to protect the ends of your fingers, not bear weight. The same goes for the Mustang’s feet. He needs to bear weight on his sole.
Mustangs need a short forward toe length and beveled edges. Natural wild feet resemble what’s known as a “four point trim.” They have rather blunt toes and primarily bear weight on the four quarters of the hoof. You need to be careful about not geting too much horizontal toe length when trimming Mustangs, particulaly in the front feet.
In the domestic environment, the Mustang will not wear down his hoof walls nearly to the extent that he would in the wild. For that reason, you need to bevel, or round off the bottoms of the hoof walls so that they will wear appropriately. Beveling also reduces cracking and chipping. Naturally, the degree of beveling would vary accoring to the use of the horse. If the Mustang is used in rough country, we might want to leave a little more hoof material on the ground.
Mustangs need a balanced “touch down.” How your Mustang’s foot strikes the ground will tell you what you need to do to finish your trim. At a brisk walk, the foot should strike down just slightly heel first and be even on the medial-lateral axis. If he touches down slightly toe first, his toe needs to be taken back a bit more. If his foot rocks to the inside or outside when he touches down, the edge that touches ground first should be trimmed off just a little more. When the hoof glides onto the ground evenly with the heel kissing the ground first, then you know you have it right.
If your Mustang’s feet are trimmed so that he supports himself by his sole, his hoof walls are beveled and his feet strike the ground evenly and slightly heel first, you will have feet that will generally maintain themselves well and you will have a horse that is likely to preserve his native balance and surefootedness.