The Donkey Sanctuary recently took in a pair of rescue donkeys with grossly overgrown hooves called Stuart and Bob. When post-surgery complications led to the difficult decision to put Bob to sleep, Stuart needed help to start his life afresh.

Our welfare team are always on hand to support donkeys in need, so when the RSPCA contacted us about two donkeys they had seized on veterinary advice, we responded right away to help plan the best course of action.

Along with Bob, Stuart’s feet had become so overgrown that his toes were curling up – rendering even a the shortest of walks a painful ordeal.

Stuart in hospital
Stuart forelegs front view overgrown hooves
Stuart forelegs side view overgrown hooves
Stuart at clinic, with multiple views of his overgrown hooves.

Our Head of Welfare, Hannah Bryer, went straight to visit them at the equine clinic in Staffordshire where they had been taken for treatment.

“I could see right away that both of the donkeys needed corrective care on their hooves from an expert farrier,” said Hannah. “Their overgrown and misshapen feet were causing them pain and affected their ability to stand or walk normally.”

Bob in hospital with overgrown hooves
Bob hind legs front view overgrown hooves
Bob hind legs side view overgrown hooves
Bob's painful, twisted hooves on his hind legs.

Both donkeys underwent routine assessments, treatment and, for Bob, a castration procedure that every stallion receives when coming into our care.

A turn for the worse

The journey of this donkey duo took a heartbreaking turn when Bob suffered post-operation complications and – despite extensive veterinary treatment – the difficult decision was taken to put him to sleep.

Donkeys form close bonds, and the impact of such a sudden loss can in turn be a life threatening event for the donkey that loses its companion. Our team knew that it was vital that Stuart got all the support he needed, and for him to be relocated to another group of donkeys as soon as possible.

Chris Pile, farm manager at our Derbyshire centre, was there to transport the bereft Stuart to his new home. “It’s quite a stressful thing for a donkey to lose their mate,” he said. “We did keep a close eye on him, particularly in the first three weeks when there’s a higher risk of hyperlipaemia – a potentially fatal disease often brought on by stress – but he took it all in his stride and seems to have bounced back very well.”

On arrival, Stuart spent some time in an isolated area before joining a group of playful boys where, thankfully, he settled in straight away.

Although Stuart now looks like a different donkey, Chris says that such extensive neglect to his hooves will take time to overcome.

“When we first met Stuart it was of course the feet that came to our attention – that was our main concern. He had adapted to that way of walking and our worry was that if we corrected lots of the hoof straight away that it might cause some pain. So, we have been correcting the shape of the hoof a little bit at a time to allow him to get used to his new feet.”

In spite of all he’s been through, Stuart is taking strides in the right direction and is undergoing training with a renewed spring in his step. Hopes are high that someday he will find a new friend to fill Bob’s shoes, and maybe even join our Rehoming Scheme.

Stuart and Bob in trailer
Stuart and Bob together in trailer.
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