Hoof cracks can occur in all breeds of horses and ponies and can be a significant cause of foot problems and lameness.
Once formed, the cracks can take many months to grow out and in severe cases can lead to recurrent problems.
Getting prompt treatment when you first notice a crack will significantly reduce the time and interventions needed to enable it to heal.
Causes of Hoof Cracks
There are a number of causes of hoof cracks in horses and ponies.
Please note, this list is not exhaustive but shows the most common causes of hoof cracks:
- Hoof imbalance
- Poor farrier care
- Lack of nutrition
- Bone structure
- Exercise on hard or rocky terrain
- Issues relating to the coffin bone
- Excessive pawing
- Trauma to the hoof/coronet and pre-existing damage to underlying laminae.
Many hoof cracks are not painful initially, but they can get worse, leading to infections and, in extreme cases, hoof loss.
They can also lead to serious bacterial infections if left untreated.
Hoof crack types
There are several types of hoof crack, described by their location on the animal:
- Sand cracks are vertical cracks located at the front of the hoof wall and are associated with a concave hoof wall with a long toe and low heel
- Quarter cracks are vertical cracks at the side of the hoof wall. True quarter and sand cracks start at the coronary band and are associated with medio-lateral (side to side) foot imbalance and sheared heels
- Grass cracks start at the bottom of the hoof wall and extend up towards the coronet
- Horizontal cracks usually occur as a result of trauma or following an abscess that has burst out at the coronary band
Hoof cracks can be of varying thickness, involving just the outer surface of the hoof wall through to full thickness cracks that go into the underlying sensitive structures and laminae
Hoof cracks lead to hoof capsule instability and can be associated with inflammation, infection and lameness
Treatment of Hoof Cracks
Treatment involves correcting foot balance and stabilising the foot using a bar shoe.
Additional treatments including making a v shaped groove and using wires or implants across the crack.
Prevention involves maintaining good foot balance and farriery and healthy horn growth.
There are many different methods for treating hoof cracks and no single method will be suitable for all cracks.
The first, and most important, aspect of treatment is to address any foot imbalance. For sand cracks, the toe will be shortened and the concavity of the hoof wall corrected.
For quarter cracks, any medio-lateral foot imbalance needs to be corrected. The crack also needs to be cleaned out and any infection resolved.
It is important to immobilise the hoof wall either side of the crack. The coronary band needs to be stabilised to allow new hoof horn to grow down without a crack.
One of the simplest ways of achieving this is by applying a heart bar shoe. In addition to this, the patient should have its movement restricted, possibly including a period of box rest.
For more advanced cracks, further remedial farriery may be required.
Some methods use metal bone plates or resin bridges placed across the defect to stabilise the crack.
An alternative method involves cutting a V shape in the hoof wall at the base of the crack to disassociate the coronary band from the pressures of the hoof crack.
This stabilises the coronary band. Some cases are treated by threading fine wires either side of the crack, combined with special implants to help stabilise them.
Prevention of Hoof Cracks
- Maintain good foot balance and regular farriery
- Treat small cracks early
- Treat coronary band wounds promptly
- Feeding supplements containing biotin, methionine, zinc and limestone flour (calcium), can improve horn quality
Fellowes Farm carries a range of hoof care supplements to support healthy hooves in your animals.