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Newsletter Volume 7, 2018
Contents of this newsletter

01 Donkey health

02 Horse health myths

01 Donkey health

For at least 5000 years there has been a unique bond between humans and donkeys. Historically they have been used as a working animal, playing an integral role in the mobilisation of ancient pastoral cultures and the development of long-distance trade across Egypt. Modern donkeys continue to play a crucial role as beasts of burden in many underdeveloped cultures. Elsewhere, donkeys may be used to sire mules, guard stock, facilitate tourism, and as companion animals or pets. In some countries, such as China, there is also a demand for donkey meat and products, often considered a delicacy.

Despite the oversized ears and stubborn reputation, donkeys are still a member of the equine family, with all the same health and husbandry needs as our horse and pony friends. They require regular handling, farrier and dental care, vaccination, and drenching just like horses. Donkeys can also be particularly susceptible to certain equine health conditions, such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome and laminitis (founder). Given that modern donkeys were derived from species of African wild ass, they evolved to survive in dry and arid environments. So with access to lush pastures or a rich diet, donkeys are particularly susceptible to obesity, insulin resistance, and laminitis.

Whether you keep a donkey as a pet, for breeding, or as guard animal, be sure to touch base with a vet to make sure your donkey's health needs are being met.

02 Horse health myths

Myth: White hooves are weaker than dark hooves.

"One white foot—buy him.

Two white feet—try him.

Three white feet—look well about him.

Four white feet—go without him."

So, does this old rhyme have any merit? In short, no.

Debate and misconceptions about hoof colour have been around for a long time, since well before the development of technology which enables us to examine and assess the inner structure and function of the horse's hoof.

Structurally, and microscopically, the anatomy of a white hoof and a dark hoof is exactly the same. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that white hooves are inferior to dark hooves. It has been shown that black hooves and white hooves do not differ in water content, chemical composition, hardness, or compressive strength. We know that hoof wall colour is dictated by pigment producing cells at the coronary band, which explains why a horse with a white sock will have a white hoof on that leg. Some horses with more complex colour patterns, such as Appaloosas, may even have striped hooves.

Hoof quality can certainly be related to genetics and hoof conformation, and this probably explains the indirect (and incorrect) link between hoof colour and hoof quality.

If you have concerns about your horse's hooves, consult with a vet and qualified farrier for a full assessment of your horse's hooves, diet and podiatry needs.