What the Muck Is That? Overgrown Hooves

This week we take a look at overgrown hooves and how they got that way after a recent abuse case made headlines.

Social media has been in a frenzy over this photo…

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Responding to a call about the welfare of pet pigeons, police officers were staggered to find three horses in emaciated condition with seriously overgrown hooves.

“Our organization has been around 26 years and we have rescued 3000 horses in our history,” Caroline Robertson, development director for the Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR), which is currently caring for the horses, told The Dodo. “From a hoof neglect standpoint, this is the worst case we, our veterinarian and our farrier have ever seen.”

Piper, the miniature pictured above, was sadly euthanized. The two remaining horses were transported to the rescue and given medical care immediately.

No charges have been filed, but authorities say an investigation is underway.

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So how did the hooves get that long?

Hoof growth occurs from the coronary band down toward the toe. The average hoof grows 1/4 to 3/8 inch per month. Since the average hoof is 3 to 4 inches in length, the horse grows a new hoof every year. Horse hooves never stop growing.

What affects hoof growth?

Age: Hoof growth rate seems to be highly correlated to heart rate. Young horses have a higher heart rate than that of older horses. Similarly, young horses have a faster hoof growth rate than older horses. Hoof growth rate decreases as the horse ages.

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Exercise: Highly conditioned horses have a lower heart rate than idle horses, but their hoof growth is faster. It appears that the exercise they receive offsets the effect of the slower heart rate.

Season: A horse’s hoof grows faster in the spring of the year than other seasons. This growth rate may be influenced by climate. Hoof growth slows during the winter months.

Nutrition: Hoof quality and growth is most affected by proper nutrition, which involves feeding a properly balanced ration.

Illness: Systemic fever or injury of the hoof usually results in rapid hoof growth.

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So, why do horse hooves never stop growing?

Horses were meant to move … a lot.  The average wild horse lives in an arid environment where they need to travel five to thirty miles on any given day to find adequate food and water.  Because of that, evolution required their feet to withstand lots of wear and tear, i.e., they just keep growing.

To read more about Quest and Rio and to donate to their care, please visit Days End Farm Horse Rescue.

Go Riding.

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