High Performance Hoof Care, LLC
Vickey M. Hollingsworth, DAEP 

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What's not to love about longears?

Donkeys and mules have been an important part of my hoof care business since day 1.  I often receive inquiries, "Do you trim donkeys? I contacted a couple of farriers who said they don't trim donkeys."  Yes, not only do I trim them, I love it!

Over the years I have had great success with donkeys and mules, possibly because I am a female. Often donkeys (especially miniatures) are handled roughly by muscular farriers who can hog tie and flip them to the ground. Since I don't have that ability, I have to use other tactics. Donkeys and mules can be tricky with their feet because they need time to develop trust in their handlers. This trust can take months or even years to develop. Given the nature of my job, it is imperative that donkey and mule owners spend as much time handling hooves as possible. Training your donkey or mule to accept strangers, and exposing them to a variety of stimulus and situations generally makes them much better about hoof handling.

Donkey and mule feet are slightly different than horse feet in that they tend to walk more on the frogs and they have a more upright angle. Donkeys tend to be more susceptible to white line disease so a good hoof care schedule, proper trims, and a clean environment are important. Donkeys are not suited for eating large amounts of high sugar feeds and lush grazing.  As such, they tend to develop laminitis quite easily. If you have any concerns with your donkey or mule, please ask me and I can offer you some helpful resources!

Donkeys require correct hoof trimming and care just like their larger equine companions. Long term hoof neglect can lead to white line disease, thrush, laminitis, and poor hoof conformation. Lameness is common in donkeys not receiving regular hoof care but is usually preventable.

 Typically flare is not an issue when the donkey is kept on a regular trimming cycle.

I am often asked if donkeys need shoes, or if they can be shod. Great question! Yes they can be shod, but no they typically do not require shoeing. If lameness is present, hoof boots can be used. Equicast is a fiberglass wrap that may also be used to stabilize the hoof capsule or provide extra protection.

White Line Disease

White Line Disease (WLD) is a very common problem in donkeys. The lamellar connection between the hoof wall coffin bone becomes infected with bacteria. The closed environment does not allow air and light to penetrate the bacteria colony so it can spread rapidly. The best way to treat this is to remove some of the hoof wall so that the area may be debrided and medications applied. Depending on the severity of the infection, recovery can take a few months to well over a year. In very severe cases, veterinary assistance is needed to resection the hoof wall (complete removal). Prevention of WLD is very important in donkeys. This includes a clean living environment, good nutrition that supports hoof health (amino acids, methionine, Vitamin E, selenium, copper, biotin), adequate weight control, and regular hoof cleaning and trimming. Donkeys do much better living in a dry environment free of mud, urine and manure. Living on water logged pastures and manure covered paddocks leads to WLD.

White Line Disease is much more common in donkeys living in wet areas and lacking adequate hoof care. 

Donkeys that haven't been trimmed in a while can have some very interesting hoof issues! When laminitis or founder are present, the feet can present a real challenge. Keeping the donkey on a shorter trim cycle is critical, as is a biomechanically correct trim that addresses hoof distortion. Donkeys tend to have very thick hoof walls, good frogs, and a more upright heel angle. Their pasterns are usually very upright so the more underrun the heels get, the more lameness is present. As is with horses, donkeys need to be trimmed to maintain the correct heel/pastern angle (HPA). In other words, the hoof angle should follow the angle of the pastern, creating a straight line to the ground surface. 

Shown above is a before/after sequence of a young female donkey who hadn't been trimmed in about a year. You can see the dramatic difference that just one hoof trim can make in the hoof angle and mechanics of the entire limb. Body soreness is often present when feet become this overgrown. Muscle groups must do extra work they aren't accustomed to when compensating for poor hoof form.