|Donkeys and Mules
|Differences and Similarities|
|In addition to being downright adorable, donkeys and mules are very interesting to trim. The shape of their feet is quite different from that of horses, both inside and out, but the principles of trimming are still the same. There is an excellent PowerPoint explanation of the differences HERE, which I recommend highly.|
|Mules: The Big Guys|
|Mule feet can vary from mule to mule, with some looking more horse-like and some looking more donkey-like.
The comparison below should illustrate dramatically, even to the uninitiated, why the traditional way that mules have been trimmed and shod is not at all correct. These are two different draft mules.
On the left in each comparison is a John mule (male) with pathologically high heels made even more so by the 1/2" caulks on his shoes. On the right in each comparison is a Molly mule (mare) with a natural, performance barefoot trim. This mule had only been trimmed naturally for a few months at the time these photos were taken, and her feet will continue to improve, but they already serve well to demonstrate the differences between the two trim styles.
In the first set of pictures, the green line indicates where the heels SHOULD contact the ground. They do so correctly in the molly mule's foot on the right; the John mule on the left has at least an inch and 1/2 to go before his heels are actually on the ground in the correct position! His frog, which is supposed to be in contact with the ground in order to work properly (well, to work at ALL), is also an inch and a 1/2 from the ground. The magenta arrows show the pushed up hairline/coronary band, where the hoof capsule has been forced up into parts of the foot where it does not belong by high heels and impacted bar material. The hoof on the right shows a relaxed hairline/coronary band.
Heels as high as those of the foot on the left are navicular waiting to happen. None of the natural processes of the hoof can work as intended with the foot in this posture.
|The side view below shows the imbalance of the foot on the left very clearly. Not only is the John mule's weight centered nowhere near the back of the foot or the center of the leg, but the high heeled, on-his-toes posture gives this mule a precarious appearance. The hoof on the right, on the other hand, appears strong and steady, even on large, sharp gravel.
The irony is that the owner of the mule on the left trail rides him. She has been led to believe that shoes with caulks (and borium) are necessary for her mule to have good traction on varied terrain. The fact is that bare feet have FAR better traction that shod ones. And with her weight squarely on the back of her foot, and her weight carried in the center of her leg, the draft molly mule on the right is the mule who is indeed ready for anything!
|Donkeys: The Tough Guys!|
|Donkeys can often withstand hoof problems that would cripple a horse. Below: This Mammoth Jack's walls are crumbling off, with little connection all the way up the foot. It will take a year or more for the entire foot to rebuild itself, but despite the hoof balance problems and the crackling wall, he is sound and apparently happy. A horse in similar straits would probably be lame.
The 2 photos below show the right front, both before any trimming was done (or had been done for at least 6 mos), and directly after the first trim. You can see that even in the after picture, the balance is still not 100% correct. The heels have actually been lowered a good bit, but the frog is extremely well-developed (as is often the case in donkeys), and hence, the back of the foot still appears high. This will resolve over time. There is already, however, more weight being carried at the back of the foot. There is nothing to do about the crackling walls except to keep the feet balanced so that the new wall can grow out correctly over time.
|Here is the same jack six months later (L). The flaky, crumbly wall has grown down to within an inch or so of the ground and the new wall is tight. The heels are now well back under the leg.|
|In these before/after stance photos of the same Mammoth Jack (below) you can see the immediate postural changes. Even though he was moving soundly (albeit toe-first) before the trim, his posture is much improved afterwards. Before the trim (left) he was leaning onto his toes with front legs back under him (a posture his too-high heels forced him to adopt). After the trim (right), he is standing more correctly on all 4 legs.|
|Minis: The Little Guys|
|Miniature donkeys have some special needs. I have to kneel on the ground and hold their tiny feet in my lap to trim, and I sometimes use special, smaller tools|
|Back to the Main Page|