Facts And Prevention For A Horse Hoof Without Cap (Degloved Hoof)

January 17, 2023
Horse hoof without cap

Have you heard the horror stories of horses losing hoof caps? If you have, you’ll know that this is a rare but severe condition that can cause irreparable damage to your horse. But what causes a degloved hoof, and how can you prevent it?

Many factors can cause a degloved horse hoof, including illnesses and fungal infections, physical trauma to the hooves, or ill-fitting horseshoes. However, you can prevent your horse from getting a degloved hoof by properly maintaining its hooves and ensuring they are healthy.

Since a degloved horse hoof is such a severe condition, you should know everything about it and how to prevent it. As such, we’ll discuss all the facts about degloved horse caps and how to prevent them from occurring. This is a complete guide to understanding and preventing degloved hoof caps.

Facts About Degloved Hooves In Horses

Understanding what precisely a degloved hoof is and why it is a problem in horses is crucial for a horse owner. While degloved hooves aren’t common, they can cause irreversible damage to your horse and may sometimes be fatal.

A degloved hoof refers to a condition or occurrence when the hard, protective hoof cap dislodges from the horse’s hoof. There are various causes for a horse’s hoof becoming degloved, which we will discuss in the next section. When the horse’s hoof is degloved, the sensitive laminae of the hoof is exposed.

man care horse hoof

Having a degloved hoof is excruciatingly painful for a horse, and the exposed laminae are susceptible to infection, drying, and fungal infections. A degloved hoof is an atrocious sight, as the hoof looks raw, bloody, and painful.

Although there are instances where the degloving happens immediately after severe injury to the hoof, it usually occurs over several days because of injury or illness. Immediate degloving is more common among foals since their hoof caps are softer and more vulnerable.

But what exactly causes degloved hoof caps? Since this condition is so serious, you should know what signs to look for and common conditions that can cause degloved hoof caps if you want to prevent it from happening to your horse.

Causes For A Degloved Hoof Cap

There are several causes for horses getting degloved hooves. Fortunately, if you treat the underlying causes in time, it seldom progresses to a fully degloved hoof cap. Sometimes, however, despite your best efforts, the hoof caps become degloved. These are the most common causes for a horse’s hoof degloving:

hoof care

1. Physical Injury Of The Horse’s Hoof

One of the leading causes of degloved hooves in horses is untreated physical injuries. The hoof cap can split or crack if the horse knocks its hoof on a rock or steps on a sharp object. If left untreated, the crack can worsen and cause infection. This may lead to the hoof partially or entirely degloving if not treated.

If the hoof splits or cracks, or something wedges between the hoof and laminae, it can turn into a degloved hoof over time. If you notice your horse limping or walking uncomfortably, inspect its hooves and treat any problems immediately.

2. Laminitis

Laminitis is a serious condition among horses, where the sensitive and insensitive laminae become inflamed. The laminae are between the horse’s hoof cap and coffin bone, the exposed part you see when the horse loses its hoof cap. The laminae cannot hold the hoof and coffin bone together when inflamed.

In most cases, the coffin bone moves down from its position. In some cases, laminitis can also lead to the hoof cap falling off the hoof. Laminitis can occur in any of the horse’s feet. If you notice your horse is lame and its hooves are hot to the touch, it could indicate laminitis, and you should call your vet immediately.

3. Improper Shoes Or Hoof Care

Horses need regular hoof care and maintenance. Their shoes must be replaced every 6 to 12 weeks. If you don’t replace the shoes often, they can start to come loose, which may cause the horse to rip them off or knock them against rocks or the ground. The resulting injury could eventually lead to a degloved hoof cap.

In addition to replacing the shoes, a horse’s hooves must be filed and well-maintained. If not, the hooves can easily split or get injured, leading to a degloved hoof cap. Suppose you regularly have your horse’s hooves maintained. In that case, the farrier can also spot any problems on the horse’s hooves sooner, and you can treat these problems accordingly.

4. Infection Of The White Line

Yet another problem that could lead to a degloved hoof is white line infection. You can see a white line between the horse’s outer hoof (hoof cap) and sole. This white line is also subject to some infections, including fungal infections.

horse hoof infection

If not treated correctly, white line infections can lead to other problems in the horse’s hoof, including a degloved hoof in extreme cases. This is also why regular inspection and maintenance are crucial for preventing a degloved hoof.

5. Trampling On The Hoof

If a horse accidentally tramples on another’s hooves, the trauma can cause splits or breaks in the hoof cap. This can lead to pain, swelling, infection, and a degloved hoof cap in severe cases. Hoof trampling is more common with foals since they aren’t used to the movement patterns of the herd yet.

If you don’t tread the trauma from a trampling incident, it may lead to the hoof cap degloving. Keep horses with hoof injuries away from their herd for a few days while their hoof heals to avoid additional problems resulting from trampling accidents.

6. Insufficient Nutrients

Another potential cause for a horse developing a degloved hoof cap is if it isn’t fed the proper nutrients. Just like a person’s nails become brittle and subject to damage when they don’t consume the proper nutrients, a horse’s hooves become easier to break.

Having brittle hooves means that they can easily get damaged when the horse knocks them against rocks or steps on sharp objects. If the damage is severe, it can lead to a degloved hoof cap or other conditions.

Is A Degloved Hoof Cap Curable?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for a degloved hoof cap. Suppose the hoof cap is separated from the laminae. In that case, your only choice is to completely remove it and treat the underlying tissue.

Just like when a person loses a fingernail or toenail, there is nothing you can do to stop the nail from falling off. Instead, you must treat the wound for infection and wait for the hoof cap to grow back.

A horse’s hoof cap can usually grow back, but it takes almost a year, and the new hoof cap usually has some deformities. In severe cases of degloved hoof caps, veterinarians may advise you to euthanize the horse if they think it will not recover or the underlying tissue is too severely damaged or infected.

Long-Term Effects Of A Degloved Hoof Cap

Since a degloved hoof cap is such a traumatic injury, it should be no surprise that this condition usually has long-term effects. In most cases, a horse will be lame for the rest of its life after recovering from a degloved hoof.

Foals are more likely to recover fully since they are still growing. But adult horses will likely have lifelong effects from this condition. Your horse may live long after recovering from a degloved hoof, but you can no longer use it for farm work or show horsing.

Treatment For A Degloved Hoof Cap

The treatment for a degloved hoof cap depends on the severity of the condition. Veterinarians often take horses with degloved hoof caps to a clinic for several days to treat them for infection and pain.

hoof cutting

You must clean the wound and keep it bandaged until a scab can form over it and the risk of infection is reduced. The horse cannot stand on the leg with the degloved hoof until it has healed, meaning that you must keep it in the stall while the hoof heals.

Can A Horse Fully Recover From A Degloved Hoof Cap?

Depending on the severity of the degloved hoof cap, many horses can recover with time. The recovery process is slow and draining. You must clean the hoof every other day and give the horse a special diet to ensure it has the proper nutrients to recover.

A degloved hoof takes about a year to fully recover, and the horse will likely keep some deficits for the rest of its life. Foals tend to recover fully if they don’t get an infection or die because of the trauma. Usually, if given enough time and proper care, the hoof cap can grow back fully.

The new hoof cap will likely have some deformities, just like a new nail. But if the new hoof cap is properly maintained, it won’t deglove again. There is no evidence that a horse with a degloved hoof cap once is more likely to suffer the condition again than any other horse.

Are Degloved Hoof Caps Genetically Inherited?

Since degloved hoof caps result from disease or trauma, they don’t have anything to do with the horse’s genetics. Just because a horse gets a degloved hoof cap does not mean its offspring will, too, unless the condition is caused by factors like deformed hooves in the first place.

But even if your horse has some deformities in its hoof caps, it doesn’t mean it will get degloved hoof caps in the future. If you take proper care of your horse’s hooves and ensure they are well maintained, your horse is unlikely to develop the condition.

As mentioned, degloved hoof caps aren’t common among horses. Most veterinarians report seeing only a few cases if any, each year. Since you can prevent the condition in most cases with proper care, it’s possible to have many horses, and none of them ever develop degloved hoof caps.

Prevention For Degloved Hoof Caps In Horses

After learning all these facts about degloved hoof caps, you may wonder if there is any way to prevent a horse from developing this condition. Since the condition is so severe and results in so much pain for the horse, you must be aware of how to prevent it.

If you notice any signs of a degloved hoof cap in one of your horses, call the veterinarian immediately and have them come take a look. If the infection reaches the laminae, it might be too late to save the horse, and it must be put down.

There are steps to reduce your horse’s chances of developing a degloved hoof cap. Let’s consider the prevention of degloved hoof caps in horses.

Regular Inspection Of The Hooves

We’ve mentioned inspection of the hoof caps before, but it really is the best way to prevent a horse from getting a degloved hoof cap. Check your horse’s hooves every time you are with them to ensure no splits or cracks in the hoof cap.

Inspect your horse’s hooves if you see that it is lame or walking funny. Call your vet for a consult if you notice anything strange about the horse’s hooves, like inflammation. Also, check for signs of fungal infections or anything else that could be going on with the horse’s hooves.

By monitoring your horse’s hooves, you can catch any potential problems early, and they won’t have the chance to develop into more serious conditions like degloved hoof caps. You’ll also notice when the horse’s shoes are coming loose or no longer fitting properly.

Proper Hoof Maintenance And Shoe Fitting

Having your horse’s hooves properly maintained and the shoes fitted correctly is one of the best ways to prevent many hoof-related issues, including degloved hoof caps. Get a farrier to file and trim your horse’s hooves every 6 weeks to ensure they stay neat and in prime condition.

If your horse needs horseshoes, have them swapped out every couple of weeks. This will prevent the shoes from becoming loose, which can cause them to snag and may lead to trauma to the hoof cap and degloved hoof caps.

If your horse’s hooves are overgrown and uneven, it is more likely to knock them against rocks or put too much pressure on them. Since these problems can lead to a degloved hoof cap, you must do your best to prevent them from occurring and causing severe hoof problems.

man replaces horse hoof

A Well-Balanced Diet

One of the problems that may lead to degloved hoof caps is malnourishment. If your horse doesn’t get enough calcium, zinc, and copper in their diets, its hooves can become dry and brittle. This can cause the hooves to become damaged more easily, which might lead to a degloved hoof cap.

Ensuring your horse has the proper nutrients in its diet will keep its hooves strong and protected. As a result, they won’t split or crack as quickly, which reduces the chances of a degloved hoof. If you notice your horse is acting strangely or its coat doesn’t look as shiny, it might signify that it isn’t getting the proper nutrients.

Give your horse some additional nutrients if it is recovering from an injured or infected hoof to prevent the infection from worsening and potentially leading to a degloved hoof cap.

Treat Other Ailments

Because degloved hoof caps often occur due to another injury or condition, you must treat that condition first. Treating it as soon as possible can prevent it from worsening and leading to a degloved hoof cap. Ensure your horse’s hooves are well maintained and immediately treat any injuries or conditions, like laminitis or white line infections.

By treating the other ailments speedily, the condition won’t worsen, and it won’t get to the point where the horse suffers a degloved hoof cap. Also, remove the obstacles or causes that resulted in the horse getting injured in the first place so it doesn’t happen again.

Let the horse recover fully from its injury or illness before letting it run around again to prevent the conditioning from becoming worse, the hoof from deforming, or the horse from getting a degloved hoof cap.

Take Immediate Action

If you haven’t noticed anything wrong with the horse and see that it has a degloved hoof cap, the main thing to do is to take immediate action. Phone your veterinarian and place a clean rag or towel around the degloved hoof until they get there. Give the horse anti-inflammatory and pain medication while you wait for the vet.

Follow the vet’s instructions and give the horse sufficient time to fully recover from the condition before letting it out again. This can help the wound heal properly and allow a new hoof cap to form without too much stress on the leg. It also helps prevent the condition from worsening.

Suppose the new hoof cap grows back with as little deformity as possible. In that case, you reduce the horse’s chances of developing other problems with its hooves.


A degloved hoof cap is a serious but rare condition among horses. It happens as a result of injury or illness. Fortunately, most horses can recover from a degloved hoof cap if a new hoof cap is allowed to grow. This takes up to a year and requires plenty of patience and care.








I'm Bo, the owner of Smarter Horse. Helping horses be smarter by educating their people.  To find out more about me, click here

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