This blog has been written by Matt, one of our farriers here at the Sanctuary. He is responsible for looking after the feet of the donkeys at Axnoller, Brookfield, Paccombe, Strete and Slade Farms, as well as at our New Arrivals Unit. He is also involved with teaching vet students that come to see practice with us, as well as training vets or farriers that want to improve their knowledge of donkey hoof trimming and see how it differs from trimming horse feet! He works closely with the vet team on any complex cases that may need x-rays, pre-trimming to check the angle of the pedal bone within the foot or their depth of sole and also for the donkeys who have had a foot operation, as they may need extra trimming or hoof wall stabilisation post-operatively.
“I began working for the Sanctuary in 1989 as a farm worker/groom. I used to help with feeding, cleaning out and the general care of the donkeys. Every Thursday, I used to assist Colin the farrier with tying up and cleaning out the donkeys' hooves ready for him to trim. I found watching Colin at work fascinating and decided that I would try and pursue a career in farriery.
I managed to secure an apprenticeship with a local master farrier shoeing all manner of equines and I still came to help Colin as often as I could as I wanted to continue being involved with the donkeys. After four years, I took and passed the Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers and started my own business.
Nowadays I visit the Sanctuary four times a week and shoe private horses for the rest of the time.
All of the donkeys at the Sanctuary have their feet attended to every eight weeks. We have found that this time scale prevents the feet from becoming long or twisted and also gives us the opportunity to check that there are no underlying ailments that may threaten hoof health. Prevention is always better than cure!
I visit a different farm each day and trim about fifty donkeys in each session. The grooms pick out the due donkeys for me according to their computer group so that they never miss their routine trim.
Some of the donkeys who have problems with their feet will have more regular attention and some will have shoes fitted to keep them comfortable. We don’t use metal shoes but a type of glue that is shaped to their foot and turns hard. We call these ‘rim shoes’. As a lot of donkeys suffer with laminitis, we have found that more regular trimming (little and often!) is more effective in maintaining soundness.
Every Tuesday afternoon I go to the New Arrivals Unit where all of the new intakes spend eight weeks undergoing assessment and health checks before moving out to one of the farms. They also have their feet trimmed whilst they there, as very often they have overgrown and twisted hooves and are suffering from ailments such as laminitis, thrush and seedy toe as a result. Helping to return these donkeys to a healthier condition is sometimes very challenging but very rewarding and satisfying.”