Thursday, 15 May 2014

Horsey Pedicures

The farrier has been this week to manicure the equines! That was a really interesting experience, so I thought I would write a little about it.

My mother-in-law had asked me to help with her donkeys (introduced here if you want to read more about them), so I don’t have any pictures of them having their hooves done, but next door has a rescue donkey, a pony and two shetlands, which I wasn’t helping with, so I do have some pictures of them. (I have included pictures of different animals, depending on whoever gave the best view of the process - they kept moving around! - but I've put them in order of how the whole process goes).

There was no shoeing as none of these animals ridden and they don’t go out on the roads, they just had a hoof trim.

First of all the bottom of the hoof is cleaned to free it from any mud etc, before some nasty looking clippers are employed to trim off excess hoof. This doesn’t hurt, the hoofs (hooves or hoofs? Spellchecker likes them both!) are just equine equivalents of our nails. Then a big rasp – the horsey equivalent of a nail file – is used to neaten up the edge, clean up the front, and generally ensure that the hoof sits correctly on the ground when the animal is standing on it. During this procedure the farrier also does a general foot-health check, to make sure that any fungal infection or any other problems can caught and dealt with.

A shetland's hoof in need of TLC!
Cleaning the hoof - this is next doors's donkey
Trimming the hoof with giant clippers
A bit of filing  :)

Spot the difference... Before and after
A shetland stepping out style afterwards...

Chatting with the farriers, I learned that there are a few keys differences between horses and donkeys when it comes to dealing with their hind legs (little disclaimer; I haven’t fact-checked this, it is just what the farrier told me!):

Horses have what they call a ‘check ligament’ at the hind legs, and when the farrier pinches this the horse is unable to draw its leg forward. 

A horse can only properly kick by first drawing its leg forward then kicking straight back, so the check ligament helps to prevent any kicking out, as well as stopping the animal from snatching its leg back from you!

Horses can only kick straight back, as described above, so if you keep out of range you are relatively safe from kicks.

The pony having her hind leg done

Donkeys don’t have a check ligament, they can pull their legs all over the place to try and wrestle free when you are messing about with their legs!

Donkeys don’t need to draw their leg forward in order to kick, they just kick from any position. According to the farrier, this kick is the equivalent to a one-inch-punch, and very much a specialty of theirs!

Donkeys don’t only kick straight back – they can also kick sideways, and even straight up. The farrier said he had seen someone kicked in the head while standing to the side of the rear end of a donkey, so agile is their kicking!

You can see why extra help was called upon to try and out-muscle the donkeys while it was their turn for a pedicure!

Other donkey facts from the farrier: 
You never see a muscly-looking donkey, despite how strong and tough they are.
Donkeys always look a bit knock-kneed, and when they walk all 4 hoof placements follow 1 straight line (rather than being to the left and right sides like a horse). This adaptation to their gait is what makes them so sure footed on teeny tiny narrow pathways, as they don’t need a wide path to be able to walk properly.

As the donkeys didn’t get their pictures included above, today I got a donkey picture specially – they are too cute not to include! Rosie is the white donkey, and Charlie is the grey one. While they are both great, I do think Charlie is the cuter looking one – I love his little chunky legs and his big shaggy belly, and those great big shaggy ears! Gorgeous :)

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