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Overgrown Hooves

Vintage photograph: property of Psyche Skinner

Vintage photograph: property of Psyche Skinner

This 1977 photograph shows a pony call King. The Shetland pony is being taken into the care of the SPCA. The pony has extremely over-grown hooves, turning upwards at the toe. This image shows clearly how the constant growth of a horse's hooves can become a serious health and welfare problem if he are not properly maintained.

The Condition

Equids such as horses, ponies and donkeys require regular hoof-rimming to avoid their hooves over-growing as shown in this picture.Generally horses should be seen by a farrier every few months, or more frequently as required. Overgrown hooves are commonly found in groups of horses that have not been shown adequate care, such as horses sent to slaughter.

Correction of over-grown hooves can be a very difficult process, and in some cases the animal cannot recover and must be euthanized.

An animal in this conditions has clearly been severely neglected. So if you see anything like this, a report should be made to local law enforcement or a humane agency.

Other Examples

A milder case of hoof neglect

A milder case of hoof neglect

Other species

Any hooved species can develop this problem including goats and zebras.

Show Hooves

Some show horses are encouraged to grown extra long hooves and may have tall stacked shows added. Longer hooves encourage an exaggerated high-stepping gait in breeds such as the Tennessee Walking Horse.

Hackney with long show hooves

Hackney with long show hooves

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Improper Housing

Animals like horses, and also swine and cattle, may develop overgrown hooves whilst being kept in close confinement.or on surfaces that do not allow proper hoof wear.


  • Doughty, A., N. Cross, A. Robins, and C. J. C. Phillips. "Origin and foot condition of horses slaughtered in Australia for the human consumption market." Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics, School of Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland, Equine Veterinary Journal (2009) p8 (2007).
  • Parmar, J. J., P. B. Patel, and B. G. Kag. "Incidence of hoof affections in cattle of North Gujarat." Indian Journal of Veterinary Surgery 35, no. 1 (2014): 61-63.


Penny Skinner (author) on May 01, 2012:

You would think that alarm bells would go off long before they reached this condition....

Becky Bruce from San Diego, CA on April 30, 2012:

This so sad :( I don't understand how people can neglect horses like this. Perhaps it's a lack of knowledge, people not knowing that a good farrier is necessary to keep a horse's feet at a comfortable shape and size. There should be classes and qualifications in order to own an animal as innocent sweat, and helpless as a horse. If yo couldn't tell, I'm a horse lover/owner myself :)

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on January 14, 2012:

Horrible--poor pony!!

I just wonder how this happens..was the poor thing left in a stall to rot, and never let to run?

Certainly this does not happen to wild horses, and they are never seen by farriers...

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