Hoof Care: Does My Mule Need Shoes?

When it comes to your mule’s care, the hoof is something that easily gets forgotten. Many people think that just because their mule’s hoof isn’t cracked or they see how hard it looks that their mule doesn’t need shoes. I’m going to stop you right there – this is wrong thinking. Your mule needs shoes to keep their hooves protected and healthy.

Just imagine going outside without shoes and having to walk on gravel. You won’t last very long. This is what your mule is doing when not wearing shoes, but weighing 400 or 600 pounds puts a lot more pressure on their feet. They need those shoes to protect their hooves.

Proper Alignment

Everyone knows the front end of your car needs to be in alignment to work properly. You keep your shocks in good shape and the right amount of air pressure in your tires. You take care of the tires and you have a lot smoother ride going down the road. It is the same with a mule or donkey.

I am going to say 95% of the mules I see are not being cared for properly. Look how crooked their legs are, look how hawked they are. This is a hypothetical figure for sure, but it’s based on what I see out there. A lot of that comes from their donkey parent, BUT if you trim, balance, and put shoes on them, you will have a lot straighter animal.

Alignment of Mule Hoof

When you look at your mule or donkey’s hoof, you see the frog is V-shaped. It points to the center of the hoof. If you see one side wider than the other off the frog, your hoof is crooked. That means you don’t have correct alignment. This is where corrective shoeing brings the hoof wall into place.

I do want to mention that during the winter when there is snow and mud you don’t have to keep shoes on your mule; they will suck off those shoes. But you have to remember when the hoof goes down, it expands. When it comes off the ground it contracts. What contracts more than anything else? The heel.

The Coffin Bone and Frog Work Together

The coffin bone is connected to the frog. When the coffin bone is staying straight, the rest of the surrounding hoof needs to stay even. To put it another way, you have the hoof – if you have one inch on one side of the frog and two inches on the other, then the hoof is crooked. The frog needs to sit in the center of the hoof. If you see one part of the hoof grow out, it needs to be trimmed off, so the hoof stays round.

Mule hoofs that are centered

The back hoof is rounded. The front hoof is pointier. Everything needs to be flush and pointing straight up and down.

The Wild Donkey and Mule Argument

People use the argument that the wild donkeys and mules are doing fine. It’s the natural way for rocks to chip away at the hooves. But these people are not in the field seeing what I see. Those wild donkeys and mules are not doing fine. They have horrible hoof care, hooves grown out in all directions. A lot of these animals are crippled, folks.

Please don’t use this argument to say your mule doesn’t need shoes. Trim your mules and donkey’s hooves. When you are in heavy rocks or riding on gravel trails, put shoes on so the gravel doesn’t go into the white line and you get a separation of the lamina.

Take care of your mule’s foot and he will take care of you.

I’m Here to Help

If you have a question about your mule or donkey hooves, please call or email me. Send me those hoof pictures and I will help you get them back in alignment, making your riding experience more comfortable for the animals and safer for you.