Understanding a Degloved Horse Hoof (Without Cap)

Jessica McDaniel
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Degloved Horse Hoof, Parts of a Hoof

Degloving is the removal of the entire outer part of the horse’s hoof wall along with the hoof capsule.

Degloving is a serious condition that is most commonly seen as a result of a blowout, crushing (bone in the hoof), or in severe cases, affected by an infectious process. It can result in lameness and significant in-toeing or out-toeing.

This is urgent and needs immediate attention from your vet.

What Can Cause a Degloved Hoof

When a horse is standing on hard terrain, a hoof may become agitated or injured by something sharp, hard, sharp, or overly sharp. However, a degloved hoof is the most severe injury possible to the hoof. One of the main causes is laminitis, but malnutrition or accidents are possible too. This is a pretty rare, but also pretty extreme injury. You need a good stomach to deal with the sight and the blood, but your horse truly needs you should it ever happen.

The hoof wall can begin to separate from the sensitive structures of the hoof. This causes a horrible sensation that is a painful injury. This is the same as why you don't like to walk on glass with bare feet. This sensation is infinitely worse for a horse and it will do anything it can to keep its hooves on the ground.

You can see when this happens because the hoof wall will come away from the structure of the hoof. When this happens, a flapping piece of tissue will move up and down as the hoof moves.


Horse hoof care requires you to know the different severities of laminitis. In order to do this, you need to understand what sort of hoof deformity is present and classify it as well.

What you are looking for on a dry hoof is the hoof wall (HW) line. This line is the junction of the hoof wall and the sole. You’ll be able to see where the hoof wall bleeds to the hoof wall line; this is known as the sole line. Any changes in the hoof wall line is usually indicated by white lines on the hoof wall and is also called the white line.

The severity of laminitis can be determined by the following:

  • Heat to the hoof
  • Lameness of the horse
  • Malnutrition (too carb heavy)
  • Insuline resistance
  • and several other rarer causes

Degloved Horse Hoof: Horseshoes

The term "Degloved" means that the hoof has no skin or hoof wall left, but has come off. In comparison, the hoof that has its protective hoof wall still intact is called "blistered". The degloved and blistered hoof conditions are different and have varying degrees of severity.

Usually, the hoof wall is grown out as a result of some sort of injury. The injury usually prevents the horse from walking on the hoof. The extent of the injury can vary and is typically dependant on how much skin was lost with the hoof wall.

Good horseshoe care and general trimming every 2 months can help with prevention of these issues.


Degloved hoofs are unfortunately much more common in foal than in older horses. This often comes from a mature horse stepping on the foals hoof. It's a very painful experience and could cause severe longterm damage, unless properly treated witout delay.

Degloved Horse Hoof: What to Watch Out For

Watch out for signs of lameness or discomfort to make sure you can catch issues before they reach the level of a degloved hoof. Properly fitted horseshoes and overall hoof care can help avoid any issues that could cause painful problems for your horse.

How It Can Be Treated

A horse hoof without a cap is vulnerable to a variety of bacterial and fungal infections. First and foremost, the bare hoof cannot waterproof itself and as a result, the underlying tissues are at great risk of developing infections resulting from the chapping and drying effects of the elements. Lack of a cap can, therefore, predispose the hoof wall to foot rot.

The hoof wall is also at risk of cracking and splintering as the hoof has no protection from the elements. This often results in a profuse amount of bleeding. With no presence of horn in the hoof, you’re also likely to have a significant amount of sensitivity in the bare hoof.

The first step in treating a de-gloved hoof is to ensure the horse is protected from the elements.

It's a tragic injury and needs to be treated as an absolute emergency. Some horses are able to regrow the toe capsule. However, many never return to their former self and suffer from lameness. Foals have better chances of a full recovery, but the recovery process takes usually at least a year and sometimes considerably more.

Understanding a Hoof

When injury or disease causes the hoof wall to separate from the hoof horn, the horse becomes vulnerable to infection and permanent hoof problems. This condition can be fatal for your horse without immediate care and good luck.

The hoof horn is the tough protective covering that’s part of the hoof. The soft tissue sole of the hoof is the living part full of blood vessels and nerves that allow the horse to feel and stand on the ground.

In a de-gloved foot, sensitive soft tissue is directly exposed to the moisture and infectious organisms in the environment, or if there is an open wound, to the body’s immune cells and also to the pathogens. This triggers pain in the horse’s hoof and it makes sense that the horse would want to hobble around or shuffle his feet.