Question: I know you mainly deal with horses, but I wonder if you could give me a basic outline of the care of donkey feet? We have inherited a pair of donkeys, and by the look of them their feet have been neglected for some time. Can any farrier deal with donkey feet or do you need a special donkey farrier? Or can we trim them ourselves (we trim our goats’ feet)?
Caroline, South Island
Answer: Great question. There are indeed some obvious differences between horses and donkey’s feet. Generally speaking, we find donkey’s feet are often more upright, narrower in shape with straighter quarters (between the heel and the toe when looking underneath). We often also recognise that donkey’s are more likely to develop more sole than many horses and can appear flatter (often with the sole at the same height as the hoof wall).
As a result of the relatively narrower shape, the frogs are often not as wide and/or less pronounced than in many horses.
It’s vital that the hooves are trimmed by a suitably experienced farrier. Whilst there are some noticeable differences in the hoof shape, it also follows that these things need to be taken into consideration by the farrier and the trim adjusted to the donkey. Many experienced farriers will have had plenty of experience with donkeys and be able to correctly trim donkeys as well as horses.
The daily care from an owners point of view mirrors that of horse owners. Daily cleaning out of the hooves, to make regular hoof trimming appointments and to be aware of any changes are a good start. Farriers often see relatively more problems with the frogs on donkeys (such as thrush) than in horses. Whilst the less pronounced frog may be exacerbating this problem, owners allowing donkeys to roam in wet areas and lack of daily hoof attention is likely to be a major contributing factor.
Donkey’s can live for many years so I hope you’re enjoying them now – it could be the start of a lengthy relationship!
David Hankin Dip.WCF
This question and answer was first published in NZ Horse & Pony magazine May 2010