Understanding a Degloved Hoof – A Very Serious Horse Injury

degloved hoof

Degloved Hoof Causes, Prevention, Treatment.

Horses are incredibly active animals. They work hard, and they run a lot. They spend the better part of their lives outdoors, and as such, they are prone to various injuries that can affect their quality of life. A degloved hoof is one of these injuries, and one of the most serious ones at that. In this article, I’ll do my best to explain what is a degloved hoof in horses, what are the causes of this injury, and what we can do to prevent it.

A degloved hoof is basically a hoof without a cap. When this injury occurs, the entire outer “shell” of a horse’s hoof detaches, leaving the sensitive parts underneath completely exposed. In all my years as a horse keeper, I’ve only seen a degloved hoof occur twice on two different horses, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t want to see this injury again for the rest of my days. A degloved hoof is one of the most serious horse injuries, as it can often lead to fatalities due to the sheer trauma of it all.

Another thing I’d like to mention is that I won’t be attaching any images of degloved hooves in this article. I know that perhaps I should in order for you to understand exactly what happens when a hoof loses its cap, but if you really want to see that, you can always just look online for these kinds of images and you’ll find some in no time at all. The truth is that a degloved hoof looks rather gruesome, and I wouldn’t want to force you to look at one if you’re not truly ready for it.

What are the main causes of a degloved hoof?

This is a relatively rare injury, often caused by laminitis, improper horseshoes, untreated hoof cracks, and a harsh, stressful working environment. In order for a horse to completely lose its hoof capsule, its hoves must be in really bad shape overall. Abscesses, cracks, thrush, and other hoof conditions end up weakening the integrity of the hoof and can ultimately lead to hoof capsule loss. However, it’s worth noting that degloved hooves occur rarely even in severe cases of laminitis.

To clarify, laminitis is caused by the disruption of blood flow to the sensitive and insensitive laminae. These laminae perform a crucial task: they secure the coffin bone (wedge-shaped bone within the foot) to the hoof wall. If blood flow to this section of the hoof is disturbed, the link between bone and hoof wall is weakened, which can lead to their separation.

Sometimes, horses lose their hoof capsules while working or training. These types of injuries can occur if the horse snags its hoof or shoe in a fence or an immovable structure. At high speed, that kind of impact can lead to severe injuries, including the one we’re talking about today.

In order to ensure that your horse will never have to live through such trauma, always keep a close eye on its hooves and take it to a reputable farrier every six to eight weeks. Also, be mindful of your horse’s training and working routines.

Can you treat a degloved hoof?

If you notice that your horse has lost its hoof capsule, it’s incredibly important to call your vet as soon as possible. Degloved hooves are considered medical emergencies, and they should be treated as such. Until the vet gets there, you can wrap the horse’s hoof in a towel or bandage, but keep in mind that your horse will be in a significant amount of pain. Having a fully stocked equine first aid kit would certainly make things easier.

The condition is treatable, but even if the horse manages to regrow its entire capsule, it will still have to deal with chronic lameness issues afterward.

If this happens to a foal, the chances of it making a complete recovery are higher when compared to an adult horse. On the other hand, foals are much more likely to lose their hoof capsules. Some simply end up with degloved hooves because an older horse stepped on them.

If treated right away, the affected horse will survive and will be able to recover its mobility at least partially. Regrowing a hoof capsule can take up to a year, though.

What can you do to prevent it?

There are some things that you can do to make sure that your horse never has to suffer through this debilitating condition.

  • Ensure a safe environment for your horse. This can significantly reduce the risk of hoof damage. Basically, look out for anything that could cause damage to your horse’s hooves. This includes hazardous trails, hot patches, icy patches, brambles, and exposed roots.
  • Nutrition. A horse that eats well is a healthy horse. This extends to its internal organs and its extremities. If unsure, you can always talk to your vet and figure out a healthy nutrition plan that has the potential to improve hoof strength.
  • Daily checkups. It might sound like a lot of work, but checking your horse’s hooves every day can go a long way towards ensuring its health and well-being. Keep an eye out for some of the most common hoof conditions, including white lines, cracks, abscesses, thrush, and early signs of laminitis. If you notice anything out of place, contact your farrier or vet and have a professional take a look at your horse’s hooves.
  • Cleaning. Keeping your horse’s hooves clean is a requirement if you want to be a responsible horse owner. Pick the horse’s hooves whenever you groom your horse. This process should be done daily, but just do your best.
  • Trips to the farrier. Taking your horse to the farrier regularly is the best thing you can do for its hooves. The farrier will make sure that the horse is properly shod and that it doesn’t develop any serious hoof conditions.


What have we learned so far? Well, if you take good care of your horse and its hooves, to begin with, you probably shouldn’t worry too much about a degloved hoof. However, as I mentioned before, even a healthy horse can suffer from this condition as a result of injury. In general, horses lose their hoof capsules due to neglect and a poor quality of life.

I trust that if you’re reading this, you’re only seeking to better your understanding of horse anatomy so that you might be able to take better care of your horse. As always, if you do notice something is wrong with your equine companion, call a vet without delay and make sure that it receives proper treatment.