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Equine Health Resource

Hoof Pulled Off, Loss of Entire Hoof Capsule

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

    Occasionally, a horse, donkey or mule can rip off the entire hoof capsule like a glove. This is rare. I have seen it several times, and in both cases, the equine was traveling at speed and entrapped the hoof or shoe in a very heavy, immobile steel fence or cattle guard. Occasionally, a young foal will have a hoof stepped on by another horse and lose the hoof capsule.

    In some cases of laminitis, and other conditions causing loss of blood flow to the hoof, the hoof capsule may simply detach, become loose and fall off. This is a grave sign and usually necessitates euthanasia.

    Horses may actually survive after this injury but must re-grow the entire hoof capsule. In most cases, there will be some abnormality of the new hoof capsule and some degree of chronic lameness probably will result. But there are cases in which horses do return to soundness. The prognosis is better in foals.

    It will likely take a full year for the horse to completely re-grow the hoof, and intense nursing care may be needed through this time for the best result. It requires a massive commitment to go through this process with a horse. Foals tend to require less work, grow the hoof capsule back faster, and are more tolerant of the lameness that results.


    Cover the hoof in a towel or bandage until your vet can assess the horse. Ask them whether you can use a pain relieving anti-inflammatory to give the horse some pain relief until they arrive.


    When this sort of injury occurs, veterinary examination and diagnostics early on may separate cases that might survive from those with a poor prognosis.

    Cases involving a fracture or exposed bone have a grave prognosis and should be euthanized. Vets use their clinical examination, along with x-ray and possibly other diagnostics to determine the best approach to treatment.

    What Not To Do

    Do not assume that an equine cannot survive this injury, and immediately euthanize. In many cases, with adequate care and lots of patience, an equine can re-grow a hoof capsule and return to function. Let your vet do the necessary diagnostics and help you make a decision.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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