Horse Hoof Cracks

Horse Hoof Cracks

Even while horse hoof chips, cracks, and abnormalities are usually not dangerous, it is still advisable to have them checked often to prevent more severe issues. Trauma, imbalances, and poor hoof quality are some causes. Identifying the cause of the cracks is crucial for treatment, as it may be complicated if it involves sensitive laminae. If your horse is lame or suffers from coronary band damage, it is essential to have a precise diagnosis made as early as possible. Hoof cracks can form vertically, following the hoof tubules, or run the entire length of the hoof wall. They can involve the outer hoof wall or invade underlying sensitive structures and laminae. The typical characteristics of cracks are the location, size, and existence or lack of bleeding or infection. The underlying hoof damage is often more extensive than visible outside.

Horse Hoof Cracks

Importance of maintaining healthy hooves

Horse hoof care is crucial for horse owners as it adds hundreds of pounds of stress to any ailment and is essential for their long, healthy lives. Regularly picking out your horse’s hooves helps you get to know them better and check their overall health. The goal is to keep out rocks and thrush, which can cause issues for your horse’s comfort and well-being. Trimming the hooves every six to eight weeks is essential, and a trained farrier should do this. Inexperienced owners can trim the hoof too short, leading to infection or discomfort.

A horse may become physically crippled if the animal’s normal gait does not balance the hooves. Shoeing is necessary for horses doing hard work or working on hard surfaces. Improper hoof maintenance can lead to abscesses, bruised soles, cankers, and fractures in the hoof wall. Thrush and cankers are signs of infection, and keeping your horse out of constant wet and dirty conditions is essential. Poor fitting or excessive shoe wear are common causes of bruised soles. Abscesses can be a nightmare for horses; if they develop, they may cause sudden impairment on one foot. To solve this, see a veterinarian, drain the abscesses, and give the horse a tetanus shot. Cracks are also essential to avoid, as they can lead to infection.

Types of Horse Hoof Cracks

Other names for hoof cracks are grass cracks (from the toe) or sand cracks (from the coronary band). Moreover, horse owners categorize fractures according to which area of the hoof—the toe, quarter, or heel—they impact.

Horse Hoof Cracks

1. Toe Cracks

The front portion of the hoof is where Toe cracks appear. Because the horse carries more weight in the front, they usually affect the front foot. When the toe grows too long, it might put too much pressure on that area and cause a crack of this kind.

White line disease may potentially be a secondary cause of Toe cracks. Moreover, chronic toe cracks are more common in horses with very upright or club feet, which place additional stress on the front of the hoof.

2. Cracks in quarters

Quarter cracks are vertical fractures located along the side of the hoof wall. Usually, they start at the coronary band at the top of the hoof and work their way down to the bottom. A fracture with an actual quarter break can cause infection, inflammation, and instability. Quarter cracks are more likely than toe cracks to induce lameness.

There are several reasons why quarters fracture, including:

  • Damage to the heart’s band
  • Pre-existing infection-related damage to the corium and abnormal hoof shape
  • Foot abnormalities
  • Anomalies in the limbs’ conformation
  • Too-short shoes; abnormal landing patterns; poor quality hoof wall resulting from environment, diet, or heredity 
  • Quarter cracks typically happen in the front feet, like toe cracks. Sometimes, though, they are also visible on the back foot. They frequently connect with heel calluses or lateral foot imbalance. 

It is best to keep horses out of the saddle and allow them to heal while hoof care improvements occur if they have full-thickness quarter cracks.

If the horse is to remain in competition or training, soft tissue displacements, and hoof distortions must wait until the crack is stable and correct.

3. Heel Cracks

Below the heel bulbs, at the hoof’s rear, are cracks. Shoes that slide to one side or are too tiny to accommodate the entire heel cause them. Overstriking, where the horse overreaches and impacts the back of a front foot, is another common cause of heel cracks. Heel cracks can also result in lameness, just like quarter cracks.

4. Horizontal Cracks

Trauma to the coronary band or the rupture of an abscess at the coronary band are two possible causes of horizontal hoof fractures. They gradually develop out of the hoof wall and do not usually cause lameness.

Causes of Horse Hoof Cracks

Horse Hoof Cracks

Horses can get cracked hooves for a variety of reasons, some of the more frequent ones being:

Injury

Trauma is one of the most frequent reasons for broken hooves. Poor farriery work can lead to problems with balance, conformation that strains the hoof wall, external injuries like a blow to the hoof, or repeated concussions from working too quickly on hard surfaces.

Genetics

Their genetic makeup mainly determines the general strength and thickness of your horse’s hoof wall. While certain breeds, like Thoroughbreds, have stronger feet with more structural integrity, others are more prone to cracks.

Abscess

An abscess frequently causes horizontal hoof fissures that run parallel to the ground. It probably drained via the coronary band, momentarily interfering with the horn’s development and leaving a gap. When the abscess gets medical care, these cracks usually heal quickly.

Food deficiencies

Your horse may not get enough vitamins and minerals in their food if they have little fissures on all four hooves. It is doubtful that a single fractured hoof results from a dietary deficit.

Weather and Environment

The foot may deteriorate as a result of extended exposure to both wet and dry circumstances. It is particularly likely to occur if your horse is often experiencing extremes such as wet then frozen ground or wet then hard and dry surfaces. Furthermore, while moderate moisture benefits hooves, prolonged standing in muddy or wet environments can weaken the hoof.

Prevention

After fixing a hoof crack once, you must avoid going down that route again! There are a few things you can do to stop hoof cracks from happening again or in the first place, including:

1. Regular cutting.

It would be best if you underwent frequent foot trims every four to six weeks for your horse. Plan a timetable with your farrier to prevent waiting too long between trims. Overly lengthy hooves can make it more difficult for your horse to distribute its weight, which increases the risk of cracks.

2. Frequently clean and examine your horse’s feet.

In addition to keeping dirt and debris out of the hoof to help prevent problems like abscesses, thrush, or white-line disease, which can also create cracks or other concerns, routinely inspecting your horse’s feet will help you identify minor cracks before they worsen.

3. Serve a nutritionally complete diet high in copper, zinc, methionine, and biotin.

Your diet may influence the condition of your horse’s feet. It can be helpful to ensure they are eating a balanced diet, particularly concerning essential nutrients like copper, zinc, methionine, and biotin. Compared to a placebo, research by Zenker and colleagues at the University of Zurich has demonstrated that adding 15-20 mg daily for an average 1,100 lb (500 kg) horse can improve hoof condition. Contact your veterinarian or an expert equine nutritionist to ensure that your horse’s diet provides enough to preserve the health of their hooves

4. Examine the footing of your horse.

Cracks might develop in the summer from repeated collisions with hard or uneven surfaces. Avoiding too-firm terrain, maintaining well-harrowed arenas, and keeping paddocks free of stones are ways to prevent hoof cracks.

5. Keep from kicking.

Because of pests, horses frequently stomp their hooves, resulting in numerous cracks. Don’t be sparing with insect protection if bugs are a problem! It’s also crucial to control pests in your horse’s surroundings by routinely clearing dung, setting up fly traps, and other measures.

Treating a horse’s cracked hooves

You should always see your veterinarian first if your horse is lame or has a coronary band injury. Numerous conditions can lead to unsoundness in horses. Therefore, it’s critical to make the proper diagnosis before beginning treatment. Before fixing the crack and stabilizing the hoof, any infection within the hoof must also treated.

Your farrier can generally fix a hoof break that is merely on the ground surface and doesn’t result in lameness. Shoeing, if necessary, and trimming will stabilize the hoof wall. Your farrier might decide to shoe a horse using toe or quarter clips on either side of an intense crack if the horse is already shod.

If there’s an abscess, your farrier will find it, treat it, and either remove it entirely or stabilize the crack with a suitable trim. If the coronary band is affected, the crack will stabilize using your farrier’s chosen technique after cutting out along its length to lessen laminae squeezing and assist in minimizing perpetuation by overlapping edges.

Conclusion

Trauma, imbalances, and poor hoof quality can cause horse hoof cracks. Identifying the cause is crucial for treatment, as it may involve sensitive laminae. Hoof cracks can form vertically or run the entire hoof wall length, affecting the outer hoof wall or underlying structures. Maintaining healthy hooves is essential for a horse’s long, healthy life. Toe, quarter, and heel cracks are the main types of hoof cracks. White line disease or incorrect hoof form are the two main causes of toe cracks affecting the front foot. Quarter cracks can cause infection, inflammation, and instability; heel cracks can result from shoe or overstriking.

An abscess at the coronary band or damage to the coronary band might result in horizontal hoof fractures. Horses can suffer from these fractures for various reasons, including injury, genetics, food deficiencies, and prolonged exposure to wet and dry environments. It is advisable to prevent hoof cracks by regularly trimming, cleaning, and inspecting the horse’s feet, providing food-rich nutrients, checking the horse’s footing, and refraining from kicking. Treatment for cracked hooves should involve a veterinarian diagnosis, proper diagnosis, and treatment of any infection within the hoof. Farriers can fix ground-surface hoof breaks, shoes, and trim to stabilize the hoof wall. The farrier will treat and stabilize the crack if an abscess is present.

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