How Do Horses in the Wild Take Care of Their Hooves?

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Most people are aware that horse owners regularly file and trim their horse’s hooves because if they didn’t, the hooves would get too long and that could spell trouble for the horse. If you’re wondering how wild horses keep their hooves trimmed, the answer may surprise you.

The fact is, they do not do anything special to their hooves because they run around more than domesticated horses do and they experience more types of terrain, both of which can keep their hooves nice and short for a very long time.

How Do Wild Horses Keep up With the Care and Maintenance of Their Hooves?

First of all, let’s take a look at what horse owners do to keep their horses’ hooves looking the way they should. To take good care of these hooves, four things are necessary:

  1. Trimming the hooves. Hooves should be trimmed every one or two months, and it needs to be done correctly. Until you learn how to do the job properly, you should seek help from a farrier.
  2. Picking the hooves with a horse pick. This is done to remove dirt and debris from the hooves in order to prevent infections from occurring. It needs to be done daily both before and after you ride the horse.
  3. Washing the hooves. Do this after using the horse pick. Rinse and dry the hooves first, then use a cleaner specially made for horse hooves and let them dry completely.
  4. Moisturizing the hooves. Once again, specialized moisturizers made just for horse hooves should be used. This prevents the hooves from chipping and cracking and makes them look better as well.

Keep in mind that domesticated horses are pent up all day and end up not walking or galloping very often, which means their hooves don’t usually get the chance to wear down and stay short. They also tend to stand still, often in damp or wet terrain, more often than horses in the wild, which means they don’t move around enough to keep the hooves short.

Wild (or feral) horses are constantly moving and usually get the chance to experience all types of terrain, including rough terrain. This will naturally shorten their hooves and allow them to be the right length without having to do anything else to them. In short, it is just easier to keep wild horses’ hooves the right length than it is to keep up with the hooves of a domesticated animal.

Why Is Keeping Hooves Short So Important?

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so important to keep horses’ hooves short, here are a few reasons why:

  • For aesthetic reasons. In other words, it makes the hooves look much better.
  • It can cause injuries to the horse. Hooves that remain too long cause stress on the tendons and joints, which can result in serious injuries if left unchecked.
  • The horse is more comfortable. This is easy for humans to imagine because after all, no one wants to walk around all day with toenails that are super-long.
  • It improves balance for the horse. When the horse has a better sense of balance, it is both more comfortable and ends up with far fewer injuries that can be both inconvenient and painful for them.
  • Prevents bad situations from becoming worse. Just like humans, horses can experience injuries that, if not taken care of, can turn into “worst-case scenarios.” Regular trimming of their hooves can prevent this.

If you’re not sure if the hooves need to be trimmed, look for two things: the shape of the hooves and the outside of the hooves. The latter refers to the fact that the area of the hoof between the toe and the coronet band should be straight. If there isn’t a straight line, it usually means that the toe has grown out and therefore the hoof is too large.

What Are Some of the Most Obvious Hoof Problems?

There are also some problems that might occur even if you think you’re taking good care of your horses’ hooves. First of all, there could be hoof thrush, which is characterized by a terrible-smelling black liquid that can cause lameness if not taken care of properly. Fortunately, it is easy to notice and not difficult to eliminate.

Cracks in the hooves can also occur and are usually caused by not trimming them often enough, as well as very dry weather. More moisturizers can be a solution. Also, if you trim the hooves incorrectly, problems can result such as collapsed heels or long heels. These can result in trauma or straining of certain joints and tendons.

If all of this sounds complicated, it really isn’t. Just check with a professional farrier if you are new to taking care of horses and they will make sure the job is being done correctly. Even better, let them do the job themselves until you get the hang of it and feel comfortable doing it yourself.


Hoof care in horses is important, but it’s a lot more complex with domesticated horses because they have fewer opportunities to keep their hooves short and smooth. With wild horses, their running around all day and running in many different terrains will naturally keep the hooves just as they should be, which means no human intervention is necessary.

If you do take care of horses yourself, you’ll find that taking care of their hooves can be time-consuming, but it’s all worth it in the end because your horses will be healthier and happier.


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