Last Updated on April 24, 2022
Have you ever wondered what happens to natural wild horse hooves? After all, our domesticated horses need regular attention from the farrier to keep their hooves in shape, so why don’t wild horses have these problems? Let’s find out!
How Do Natural Wild Horse Hooves Stay In Shape?
In the wild, horses live their lives very differently from our domesticated horses. Our riding horses are kept in luxury conditions, with all of their needs provided for. A wild horse must fend for itself, and this affects how its hooves stay in shape.
Wild horses have to constantly forage for food, and will be eating poor-quality roughage. Domesticated horses are fed a high-quality diet that is supplied to them, eliminating the need to forage.
And although we think we are doing the best for our horses by keeping them this way – and they definitely appreciate the all-you-can-eat buffet service – in actual fact, it can be detrimental to our horse’s hooves!
By traveling in search of food, natural wild horse hooves are gradually worn down, helping them to stay in shape. These horses will often cover 10 or 20 miles every day, over uneven terrain that can be rocky, stony, sandy, and rough. The hoof of a wild horse is incredibly strong and unlikely to suffer from problems we see in domesticated horses such as thrush and hoof abscesses.
The way in which wild horses’ hooves are kept in shape means their hooves might not look as neat as our domesticated horses, as chunks of hoof wall can be broken away. However, any defects or cracks will quickly be worn away as the hoof grows, helping to keep the hoof in shape.
Are Wild Horse Feet Different From Domesticated Horse Feet?
Wild horse feet tend to be much tougher than domesticated horse feet. The constant movement of the horse stimulates the growth of strong hoof horn, which is worn into the correct shape when the horse travels to graze. Wild horses have strong, tough soles, protecting them from stony ground.
Domesticated horses tend to eat a higher quality diet than wild horses, and the hooves will grow at a faster rate. They are also not worn down as the horse does not need to travel far for food. This is why domesticated horses need to have their hooves trimmed at regular intervals.
Horses that are kept in a stable are also prone to softening of the hooves, due to standing in moist, warm bedding. This weakens the sole of the hoof and the frog, leaving it susceptible to infections and injury. Domesticated horses can become footsore when crossing stony ground, and may need shoes or cushioned hoof pads to make them more comfortable.
Read more about Can Horses Eat Oranges And Other Fruits?
How To Care For Horses Feet In The Most Natural Way
Traditionally, the hooves of domesticated horses have been cared for by a farrier who would put metal shoes on the feet. These were designed to protect the horse from wear and tear of the hooves, as well as prevent pain when the horse traveled over stony ground. Every 6-8 weeks the farrier will remove the shoes, trim the hoof to the correct shape, and put new shoes on the horse.
In recent years, there has been an explosion in the popularity of more natural methods to care for horses’ hooves. Most of these seem to involve stopping the use of shoes altogether and trimming the hoof in a special way that mimics the way a horse’s hoof would wear down in the wild. These are called barefoot trimming techniques and are a very specialized form of farriery.
This method is not suitable for every horse, and some will still need the traditional farriery methods of trimming and shoeing. This could be because the horse has lameness problems, or the hoof wall tends to crumble and crack. It is vital that the horse has adequate nutrition to grow strong hooves if he is to be exercised barefoot.
One Word Of Caution – If you are planning on changing your farriery routine to a barefoot method, this does not mean that you simply take your horse’s shoes off and leave the hooves to look after themselves! You will need to work with a specialist barefoot trimming farrier to help your horse’s hooves transition to life without shoes. Over time, it is possible to learn to trim your horse’s hooves yourself, under expert guidance.
Summary – Natural Wild Horse Hooves
So, as we have learned, natural wild horse hooves do not get overgrown as they live very differently to domesticated horses. A wild horse will travel for many miles each day in search of food, often over rough terrain. This wears the hooves down and keeps them in shape.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about natural wild horse hooves! Are you a fan of natural hoof care techniques for horses? Or maybe you’ve taken on a wild horse that has big problems with his feet? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
What Happens To Wild Horses Hooves?
In the wild, horses hooves grow the same as our domesticated horses hooves, but they are worn down naturally. This is because the horse travels for many miles every day, in search of food and water.
Why Don’t Wild Horses Have Overgrown Hooves?
Wild horses hooves do not grow as quickly as domesticated horses hooves, because their diet tends to be much poorer. This means that their hooves are not likely to become overgrown, as they are worn down when the horse travels in search of food.
Do Wild Horses Have Hoof Problems?
Wild horses are very unlikely to get overgrown hooves, unless they do not move around as much as normal. However, their hooves can become brittle, causing them to split or wear unevenly. They can also get bruising from standing on sharp stones, and abscesses if a sharp object becomes lodged in the foot.
If a wild horse gets a hoof problem, this can severely limit the horse's ability to run and move. This not only means that he cannot travel in search of food, but is also more vulnerable to predators. A lame horse with a hoof problem may not survive for long in the wild.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse
care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since
she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local
stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She
has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in
various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the
patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went
on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in
the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of
horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for
educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN REVN RVN A1