Overgrown Horse Hooves : Problems, Cause, Maintenance, Facts


The old proverb “no hoof no horse” stood the test of time, and reminds us how crucial hoof care is. It is said so because if hooves are not trimmed or cared for they may lead to severe health issues among the equines.

Overgrown hooves can be a real problem. Much like human fingers, horse hooves continue to grow and, if overgrown, can turn a sound horse into a lame one. This issue is mostly faced by domesticated horses who do not get the chance to wear off their hoove capsules like the wild horses in natural settings. 

So, it is essential to regularly trim the horse hooves. And for every horse owner and caretaker, it is critical to recognize the signs of overgrown hooves, their underlying causes, and other critical facts along with the ways to maintain them. 

Overgrown horse hoof problems

It is hooves that support the mechanisms of the limbs above and allows horses to withstand the loads they carry. But they can overgrow from the coronary band down toward the toe. 

An overgrown horse hoof is a type of hoof deformation that occurs as a result of poor trimming and shoeing techniques. A horse with overgrown hooves will walk on the balls of its feet, causing the tendons to get stretched. This in turn can result in lameness. 

The growth rate of the hooves is correlated with the horses’ heart rate. Since foals tend to have a higher heart rate than that of older horses, they grow hooves at a much faster rate. That being said, foals are much vulnerable to overgrow their hooves if not trimmed promptly.

Experts state that hooves that are poorly maintained, resulting in overgrowing alter the biomechanics of the horse’s body. As a result, it may face issues like arthritis, muscle or soft tissue atrophy, and bone loss. 

Another extreme problem faced by the equines as a result of overgrown hooves is laminitis. As we have already stated, overgrown hooves tend to stretch the tissues bonding the hoof wall to pedal bone, resulting in painful laminitis. 

Do overgrown hooves hurt horses?

Foals or young horses have a higher tendency to grow their hooves than the older or more mature ones. Therefore, there remain high chances for young horses to overgrow their hooves if not trimmed regularly.

Yes, overgrown hooves do hurt, sometimes a lot. Neglected horses have a high chance of having overgrown hooves, which make them uncomfortable while walking. Furthermore, if the long and overgrown hooves are not taken care of, they may put constant strain on the tendons. 

Strained tendons can cause stumbling and tripping, along with other painful knee and back issues. Other than these, some other common painful health problems associated with overgrown hooves are-

  • Cracked hoof walls
  • Thrush
  • Stretched white line (subclinical laminitis)

Neglected horse hooves

Most of us may think that hooves are the sturdiest and most unyielding part of a horse’s body. But in reality, they are the most vulnerable part, susceptible to getting hurt in several ways is left neglected.

When hooves are not taken care of regularly they are neglected. Hooves that are neglected for a long time can cause serious foot deformities. You can say a hoof neglected if you find it associated with issues like-

  • Overgrowth
  • Long toes
  • Hoof cracks
  • Contacted heels
  • Thin soles
  • Weak hoof walls
  • Flares
  • Run under heels, etc. 

Neglected hooves can not only affect the walking status of a horse but also its overall health condition. It may not take much time for a healthy horse to feel extreme pain and lameness with neglected hooves. 

What causes overgrown horse hooves?

Hooves are one of the most dynamic parts of a horse’s body. However, nothing can be as disturbing as the sight of overgrown hooves that cause several health issues in them.

There is no single reason behind overgrown horse hooves. Some of the most common of them include 

  • Irregular trimming of hooves
  • Irregular farrier visits
  • Neglected hooves care
  • Wrong-way of shoeing the horse
  • No room for the horse to walk or run on abrasive terrain to self trim the hooves
  • Hooves are covered with shoes

For every horse owner, it is essential to learn the potential causes that may push their equines to overgrow their hooves. Long and overgrown hooves are not only disturbing to be seen but, if neglected for long, may make a horse lose its potency to work or even move. 

This can be specifically true for the domesticated horses that get no space to move like the wild ones. So, evaluating your horse and its hooves is critical to maintaining its overall health status. 

How do you fix overgrown horse hooves? 

It is not wise to commit any hoof-care mistakes that may push your horse at risk. If you find your horse with overgrown hooves, always try to fix them as soon as possible. 

You can take a few simple steps to fix those overgrown hooves with some precautions:

  • Effective trimming of the hooves every 4 to 6 weeks
  • Level off the hooves with the filing rasp
  • Let the horse run or walk on rough surfaces regularly
  • Do not put confining and ill-fitted shoes on the hooves
  • Provide the proper hoof supplements

Healthy hooves make a healthy horse. So, it is essential to make sure that your horse has balanced, healthy, and properly shaped hooves regularly. Calling a farrier at a regular interval to keep a check on their hooves can be crucial.

It is always advisable to make sure that the horses’ hooves are never overgrown. But if they do, try to fix them, by correcting the grown-out hoof wall, as soon as possible. 

How do you cut overgrown hooves?

Keeping up with the cutting or trimming of overgrown horse hooves should be a priority for all horse owners. But cautions should be adopted to avoid any over or undercut of the hoof wall. 

The first step to take care of horses is to learn how to cut or trim their overgrown hooves. Some tips to cut overgrown hooves are the following:

  • Moisten the hooves by soaking them in warm water
  • Position your horse comfortably
  • Clean the hooves with a hoof pick
  • Cutaway dead flesh from the sole and frog
  • Trim the hoof walls with a nipper

Some extended tips that may help you further in the process are as follows-

  • Remove the flares, if any, before cutting the hoof walls
  • Never overcut the hoof, as it may hurt your horse
  • Level the hoof walls with a metal filler after trimming them
  • Use the white line of the hoof while rasping and filling
  • Never be in a haste to cut those overgrown hooves
  • While trimming make sure that the outer wall has at least a 60-degree angle
  • Make sure a trained farrier visit the horse every 4 to 6 weeks
  • Always prefer to use adequately sharp tools when trimming or cutting the hooves

Do wild horses get overgrown hooves?

By far we have known that overgrown hooves can be a real issue for equines. They can hurt them and make them sick severely. Now the question that arises is do wild horses also get overgrown hooves?

Wild horses travel long distances daily, on abrasive surfaces, in the search of forages and water. This helps them wear off their hooves naturally at the same rate that they grow. This prevents any overgrowth, cracking, or splitting of hooves. So, it is less likely that wild horses will get overgrown hooves. 

Nonetheless, the wild horses living on soft grounds and get less chance to travel on rough lands may encounter hoof problems, including overgrown hooves. Wild horses born with physical deformities or face any injuries may experience hoof issues as well like the domesticated ones. 

How do wild horses keep their hooves short?

The surroundings of wild and domestic horses vary a lot. While domestic horses need regular trimming of their hooves, wild horses don’t. So, what helps the latter keep their hooves short?

Feral horses in the wild can keep their hooves short naturally. They can do so because:

  • They can walk miles on rough grounds regularly
  • Their long walks are like rigorous exercise for them helping their hooves maintain the proper shape
  • Wild horses do not get shoes, which expose their hooves for natural wear

In the wild, the concept of survival of the fittest works. Horses are predominantly prey animals, and they run and walk constantly in search of food and to be with the herd. So, it is nature that endows them with the ability to keep up with their surroundings and survive. Keeping their hooves short naturally is also a part of this process.

Much like wild dogs and cats, wild horses learn to adjust to their wild habitat and their lifestyle helps them to keep good-shaped bare hooves.

How can I soften my horse’s hooves?

By now we have learned that hoof care plays a big role in maintaining horses’ health status. Not only trimming and cutting but keeping the hooves soft is also a crucial part of the hoof care routine.

One of the best ways to keep your horse’s hooves soft is by soaking them in warm water. To get optimum results, horse legs can be soaked in warm water for 20- 30 minutes. Different ways to soak horse legs include:

  • Rag soaking
  • Disposable diaper soakers
  • Zip-lock soakers
  • Horse spa, etc.

Other than soaking, horse owners can also apply natural hoof softeners. Hoof oils can also be used for horses belonging to arid climates. Softening the hooves can be an effective step taken before trimming the bare hooves. Soft hooves make it easy for trimming or cutting them.

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