Wild Horse Hooves

Untrimmed hooves can harm a horse in a number of ways. A horse must maintain its hooves trimmed to prevent problems, much like a person must keep their toenails cut.

Because an inexperienced individual might severely harm a horse if they trim the hooves wrong, domesticated horses have professional farriers to complete the job.

Horses in the wild are considerably more numerous than those raised on ranches and farms, and I imagine that these horses are not waiting in line for pedicures at the neighborhood spa every few weeks.

So, in this article, we’ll learn how these wild horses clip their hooves and why doing so is so crucial to their general health and wellbeing.

What Are Hooves?

A hoofed animal is one that has large, nail-like cases covering each of its toes. These creatures often inhabit open, herbivorous ecosystems like the prairies and grasslands of the American West.

Horses are odd-toed hoofed mammals because each of its four hooves, which are essential to a horse’s survival, provides support for one of the animal’s legs. As a result, hooves are far more intricate than first appears.

I have yet to have the honor of seeing a stampede. However, I can still picture a large number of animals moving in the same direction with a tremendous sound because they were either thrilled or terrified by something.

Typically, hooved animals like elephants, sheep, goats, pigs, wildebeests, rhinos, cattle, zebras, and even wild horses engage in stampede behavior.

Additionally, horses can cover greater distances with each step because their lower limbs are longer than those of other animals. Horses can run so effectively for a variety of other reasons in addition to this, though.

Because they utilize fewer muscles when running, horses can conserve more energy. Horses, for instance, can run more faster and further than other mammals because they have fewer toes.

Wild Horse’s Hooves Are Different From Domestic Horse’s Hooves

Many proponents of natural remedies frequently draw comparisons between domestic and wild horses. If wild horses don’t require shoes, why should domestic horses? they could inquire with regards to hooves.

However, we must recognize that domestic and wild horses’ hooves differ from one another.

Wild horses have a different habitat than domestic horses, and natural selection results in a genetically distinct foot from human selection.

What are Horse Hooves Made Of?

Although toenails and hooves are sometimes contrasted, this is an inaccurate representation of what a horse’s hooves are and what purpose they perform. Keratin, the same substance that makes up our nails, makes up hooves. The only actual similarity between hooves and nails is this.

The extremities of a horse’s legs are covered in thick keratin layers called hooves. They serve to shield the coffin bones of horses from contact trauma when they walk or run. They are joined to the tendons and ligaments of the leg. The bottommost bones in a horse’s front and hind legs are referred to as coffin bones or pedal bones.

Wild Horses’ Natural Environment

The habitat in which wild horses live has a significant impact on the design and upkeep of their hooves.

The kind of ground and the distance traveled by horses have a significant impact on the hoof morphology.

Different surroundings give rise to various hoof kinds with distinct health issues.

Hard Ground – In situations with hard ground, there appears to be a balance between the hoof wall’s abrasion and development. As a result, hoof walls are brief, rounded, and typically worn all the way to the sole’s edge.

It is usual to refer to this rounded edge as a “mustang roll.” The breakover is kept brief, reducing stress on the tendons and ligaments. Additionally, it stops the hoof wall from cracking and chipping.

Soft Ground – In soft ground situations, the hoof wall’s development rate outpaces its rate of wear. The result is lengthy, flared hoof walls.

A flared hoof wall will fracture, chip, and eventually separate in the wild. Hoofs need to be trimmed on domestic horses since they don’t travel far enough to wear them down.

Flares cause pain. The hoof of a horse resembles our fingernails. It seems as though our fingernails were being torn out when we flare.

In spite of what some people might think, wild horses’ hooves can also develop health concerns.

Although horses living in hard surface habitats may seem to have strong feet, they are susceptible to traumatic laminitis and concussive disorders associated with this environment (Brian Hampson, 2011. The impact of the environment on the feral horse foot).

However, they may endure these foot health concerns without exhibiting disability, which aids the horse in surviving in harsh environments.

Survival of the Fittest Horse Hoofs

Due to their hereditary susceptibility to foot problems, certain domestic horses require more regular hoof clipping and specific care. Consistent foot troubles or even difficulties with a horse’s conformation can be managed by shoeing.

These horses would not be able to live in the wild. Only the strongest, healthiest horses survive and pass on their genes due to natural selection.

Horses are a prey species by nature. Wild horses with weak hooves find it difficult to make the daily lengthy treks to graze with their herd. They won’t be as quick as the rest of the herd to flee away from danger. Before it has a chance to breed, a horse who cannot keep up with its herd will be murdered by a predator.

By doing this, the genes that make horses more prone to foot problems are not passed on to the following generation. Weak genes are gradually eliminated from wild populations through natural selection. Because of this, few wild horses have issues keeping their hooves healthy.

Does A Hoof Trim Hurt The Horse?

Because the hoof wall is insensitive, trimming the hoof does not harm the horse. It is composed of keratin, a stiff protein that is a dead tissue devoid of any nerve or blood supply.

It has characteristics with human fingernails, which are likewise keratin-based. Our fingernails don’t hurt when we cut them. To the horse’s hoof wall, the same thing takes place.

However, if a foot trim is not performed properly, it may hurt the horse.

The hoof has a shape that maximizes biomechanical effectiveness and is sturdy and protective.

If the hoof is not properly trimmed, it will gradually deform and experience abnormal pressure, which can cause hoof issues. This will have an impact on the hoof wall and internal components including the frog, digital cushion, heels, sole, and so on.

Flaring, chipping, contracted heels, underrun heels, digital cushion and frog atrophy, inflamed joints, strained ligaments, remodeling of the bones, and ultimately pain throughout the entire body are examples of hoof issues that arise from improper trimming.

Further Hoof Care Discussion

Mother Nature does an excellent job of keeping wild horses’ hooves at the appropriate length. However, there are a few more factors to take into account when contrasting the condition of a wild and domesticated horse’s hooves.

Wild horses are free to roam and do not need to stand still in damp or wet conditions. Let it be known that too much moisture can severely harm a horse’s hooves and promote illness.

Animals may have health and wellness problems that they may not experience in the wild due to human nature and people’s use of animals for different purposes.

If you own a horse, I can almost guarantee that you adore it dearly and will go to great lengths to ensure its safety and wellbeing.

However, horses do not travel on abrasive surfaces like cement and asphalt in the wild. They are not being ridden or utilized in any sort of competition. In addition, horses in the wild do not carry big burdens while engaged in laborious activities like farming or other entrepreneurship.

Thus, it is clear that domesticated horses engage in a variety of human-directed behaviors, which fosters a more passive and artificial environment and has a variety of consequences that may not apply to wild horses, even at the level of their hooves.

The key lesson, in my opinion, is that horses require their feet. And a broad variety of issues can result from having terrible feet. Poorly cared for hooves, for instance, can result in “cankers, bruised soles, abscesses, and fissures in the hoof wall.”

A horse may develop some of the issues indicated if hooves are not routinely trimmed by a qualified farrier every 6 to 8 weeks. Additionally, a horse may develop lameness if infection spreads.

Likewise, a bad shoeing job might be a horse’s worst nightmare. The need for a veterinarian or other professional may be avoided, though, with thorough examination of the animal’s hooves.

Selective Breeding and Hoof Issues in Horses

Selective breeding is used to develop domesticated horses with particular traits. Instead than relying on natural selection, breeders decide which characteristics and traits are attractive.

Because shoeing can resolve or control the condition, horses with foot difficulties or challenges because of their conformation are frequently still utilized for breeding. In this approach, poor hoof quality gets ingrained in a breed and weak hoof genes are passed on to the following generation.

Domestic Horses’ Artificial Environment

Since domestic horses are typically kept in stables or tiny paddocks with softer, wetter ground and are restricted in their movement, they typically have weaker feet than wild horses.

Domestic horses are unable to wear down their hooves because of their surroundings and way of life. This is the reason a farrier needs to clip their hooves.

Additionally, because of their weak hooves, they cannot endure lengthy journeys over rough terrain or vigorous activity, which is why it is necessary to shoe them.

The Importance of Hoof Care

The conditions in which domestic horses are kept are incredibly unnatural. They have lush grass in their pastures and plush bedding in their stalls. They do not cover the extensive daily distances covered by wild horses. Because of this, their hooves are rarely in contact with rough surfaces that would normally wear them down.

Horses used for work or for pleasure riding can haul far bigger loads than horses found in the wild. Their legs, feet, and hooves are put under increased stress as a result of the additional weight on their backs.

It indicates that the hooves are subjected to more impact and wear. In order to protect the soft tissue, cartilage, bones, ligaments, tendons, and joints in the horses’ legs, shoes are required.

When it rains and pastures flood, horses must either be kept in their stalls or, in the absence of any alternative turnout options, must stand in the muddy, wet field. Long-term exposure of their hooves to dampness might result in bacterial or fungal diseases.

For the aforementioned causes, horses’ hooves require routine cleaning and trimming to avoid overgrowth, splitting, and infection.

Horses must alter how they stand and walk as their hooves become longer and start to twist. The horses’ ability to walk correctly is hampered and they experience pain as the angle of their legs becomes increasingly abnormal.

An injury to the soft tissues of their legs causes a horse to become immobile. Domestic horses can get ailments that are fatal if their hooves aren’t taken care of.

Why Wild Horses Don’t Need Shoes

Horses in the wild will graze for a number of hours each day through unforgiving terrain. Strong and wholesome hooves are produced by this continual activity on hard surfaces. Because of this, wild horses’ hooves are protected without the need for shoes.

This is comparable to human foot calluses, or the thicker skin that develops when people walk barefoot naturally. A protective evolutionary adaptation for the foot was the development of calluses. Additionally, it offers sensitivity and comfort unmatched by shoes.

Humans used to walk barefoot throughout the majority of their life, much like horses:

The oldest human-made shoes were created 8000 years ago.
Hipposandals, the first types of horseshoes, stretch back 2500 years.


If you own horses, there’s a good chance your relationship with the farrier is close. This individual visits your stable and paddock on a regular basis to examine and trim your horse’s feet.

Only someone with sufficient theoretical and practical understanding of the anatomy and operation of the hoofing system should execute the delicate task of trimming a horse’s hooves.

However, mother nature, who is the expert, is in charge of wild horses. It develops an environment that takes into account every aspect, like organically clipping a horse’s hooves, and providing the animal with everything they require.

Comment here with your thoughts, queries, and worries regarding the significance of clipping a horse’s feet.