Study Finds Feral Hooves Are Far From Perfectly Healthy

Research from Australia calls into question the concept of using mustang-style hooves as a model for trimming domestic horses

The feral horse foot that more than a few people have pointed to as the ideal appearance for all horse hooves may not be that model of perfection after all. 

Dr. Brian Hampson, an Australian researcher, came to that conclusion after conducting a wide-ranging study on the feet of the brumby horses of Australia and New Zealand. His findings cast doubt on the wisdom of using some “natural hoof” theories as the model for domestic hooves and barefoot trimming, particularly for those horses that are not living in harsh, dry environments.

In information posted at www.wildhorseresearch.com, Hampson outlines the study.

“It has been proposed that the feral horse hoof is a benchmark model for foot health in horses and can be used as a guide to optimize care of domestic horse feet,” he writes. “The adoption of this model by some groups has shifted the focus of hoof trimming away from the traditional farriery model with a tendency toward excessive removal of the bearing model of the distal hoof wall and sculpting the foot in the shape of the popular hoof model.

“It appears that the paradigm model for the feral-horse foot was obtained from limited studies of desert-dwelling feral horse that may not represent the general appearance of feral horse feet across a range of habitats. The external appearance of the typical desert-dwelling feral horse foot appears aesthetically pleasing with little pathology. However, the foot morphology and foot health of feral horses has not been formally investigated in…

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Pat tearney

Pat Tearney

Pat Tearney is a long-term newspaper and magazine veteran writer and editor. Before retiring, he served for a number of years on the American Farriers Journal staff and continues to share his writing talents with our readers.

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