How to Handle Overgrown Hooves In Horses

overgrown hooves

Overgrown hooves in horses represent a serious condition that can lead to discomfort and other health issues such as lameness. In this article, I plan to dive deep into the subject and explain the root causes of overgrown hooves so that you might get a better understanding of how to treat them and what are the costs and efforts associated with rehabilitation.

Naturally, since this is a medical issue, severe cases will require the intervention of a veterinarian. If you have adopted a horse that has hoof problems, particularly overgrown hooves, you should soon get a better understanding of what causes the condition and what can be done to fix it.

What causes overgrown hooves?

Overgrown hooves in horses are often the result of neglect or abuse. As I’ve mentioned before in my previous articles, horses should be taken to a farrier regularly for hoof maintenance, which includes trimming and cleaning.

Horses also get overgrown hooves when they don’t get enough exercise. When they don’t get a chance to run, to work, to move as they would naturally in the wild. Horses confined in a stall that don’t get a chance to travel long distances will often get overgrown hooves, particularly if they’re wearing horseshoes.

With that in mind, one could easily come to the conclusion that overgrown or very long hooves are the result of human intervention and neglect. No horse should ever have to go through this. This applies to all domestic animals, actually.

What can you do if you notice your horse has overgrown hooves?

Let’s say that you just purchased a horse at auction, or you’re fostering one before it can go to a permanent home. One of the first things that you should look at is the horse’s hooves and its teeth. If the hooves are in rough shape, overgrown, or have cracks in them, you should consult with a farrier immediately and work out an action and rehabilitation plan.

Depending on the state of the horse’s hooves, the farrier will suggest different types of treatment and interventions. You, as a horse owner, should express your concerns with your farrier if the issue is exclusively hoof-related. However, if you notice any other abnormalities or lameness, it’s time to get a vet involved.

In order to successfully diagnose lameness, the veterinarian might need to conduct a special exam. However, since this is difficult to do on horses with bad cases of overgrown hooves, trimming might be necessary beforehand.

How do you fix overgrown hooves?

There are several steps that involve “fixing” overgrown hooves in horses. These need to be performed in a specific order, and should only be attempted by qualified individuals that are familiar with horse hoof physiology. A basic horse hoof trimming session usually goes like this:

  • The horse’s hoof is soaked in order to make things easier and more comfortable.
  • The leg is positioned properly.
  • The hoof is cleaned.
  • The overgrown outer hoof wall is cut off.
  • The farrier files down the hoof wall.
  • Dead flesh on the sole and frog is removed.

Since we’re talking about cases of overgrown hoof walls, the procedure might take longer than usual, and it might be more difficult to perform for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons is that the horse might have difficulty putting its body weight on its other three hoofs while one is being cleaned and trimmed.

This brings me to another issue.

Are overgrown hooves painful?

Horses that suffer from this condition will usually have a very difficult time walking. That’s because having overgrown hooves can be incredibly painful and debilitating. In some cases, the malformations in the hoof can lead to permanent lameness, which dramatically affects the horse’s quality of life.

A lame horse will be unable to stand or move normally. It will exhibit a change in gait, and it won’t be able to work properly. Lameness is the number one cause of loss of use in horses. Many of them retire prematurely because of it.

Do wild horses get overgrown hooves?

Wild horses have their own natural way of taking care of their hooves. They travel vast distances every day in order to look for food and water. They evolved to travel these distances not only to keep in shape and to survive but also as a way to keep their hooves trimmed.

Keep in mind that a horse’s hooves grow constantly, pretty much in the same way our own nails do. However, since horses live and walk on rough ground most of their lives in the wild, they keep their hooves at a healthy level. That’s why wild horses don’t need trimming or horseshoes: their lifestyle keeps their hooves in good shape.


Overgrown hooves represent a serious health hazard for horses. If identified, this issue should be addressed swiftly but with great care and consideration for the horse’s well-being and health. If you notice that your horse or a neighboring horse suffers from this condition, make sure to speak up about it.

Overgrown hooves can cause lameness, and they are painful for the horse. They can be treated by a farrier or a veterinarian, though, so there’s still hope for rehabilitation and healthy, long lives for equines afflicted by this condition. Human neglect is the main cause, and proper human intervention is also the solution.

There are numerous images of long hooves on horses, donkeys, and other domestic animals floating around the internet. I’m not going to upload them here, as they can have quite an impact. However, it is important to know how these overgrown hoof walls look, which is why I encourage you to look some up yourself, just so you can get a proper idea.