Cracked hoof and debris tips
Many horses develop hoof cracks at some point in their lives. Most are harmless and solve their own problems with good nutrition and consistent farrier care. But there are many types of hoof cracks, and sometimes you need to take extra steps to make sure the crack “heals” and no new cracks appear. These are serious and require treatment.
As with any horse problem, the first thing you need to ask yourself is “why is this happening?” Because horse hooves grow very slowly, about a centimeter (a little less than 1/2 inch) per month, once hooves start appearing Cracks can take a long time to grow. Finding the answer to a problem is less time-consuming, more expensive, and more frustrating than trying different random solutions.
Clefts are named after the area of the hoof they are in or the suspected cause: quarter, heel, toe, sand, strip, grass.
There are many reasons for the formation of hoof cracks. Nutrient deficiencies can cause fine cracks in all four hooves. The hoof wall is thin or weak, growing slowly, with a ridged horizontal ring, and the free edge of the hoof is easily broken.
Horses’ hooves can weaken in very wet or dry conditions, especially when the horse is exposed to extremes such as wet then icy ground, or wet then very hard dry surfaces. Some moisture is good for hooves, but constant standing in muddy, wet conditions or in damp litter and wet manure can swell and weaken the hoof material.
Hard surfaces can be a problem for horses riding barefoot on rocks or paved surfaces. If a horse has to travel on these surfaces frequently, the hooves can chip and wear out. Some hoof protection, whether in shoes or boots, can help prevent these types of cracks.
Hoof clefts can spread horizontally or vertically. Horizontal cracks and lines on all four hooves can be a sign of nutritional deficiencies. Short horizontal cracks may indicate that a hoof abscess has erupted through the crest on the top of the hoof. As the hoof grows, cracks grow down the hoof. When it reaches the free edge, it can cause the hoof to shatter.
If only one foot is affected, nutritional deficiencies can be ruled out. If only the forefoot is involved, concussion cracks from hard surfaces are suspected. The rear hooves may also break if the horse is constantly driven on hard surfaces. Cracks in the forefoot can also be a sign of a retracted heel.
Quarters and sand cracks near the heel may indicate improperly trimmed hooves. If the heel “runs over” or becomes shallow, the wall of the hoof may break due to uneven weight distribution. It may also indicate that shrinking heels are developing.
If a horse’s hoof is broken, this may indicate that the horse is often driving on rough or abrasive surfaces, such as rock or gravel, frozen mud or ice. The hoof, although strong, is not as hard as stone or pavement. Horses that must ride on these surfaces need some protection.
Some cracks are caused by injuries to the crown band caused by direct impact or repeated shocks on a hard surface. Cracks and chips can also form if the hoof is not trimmed. White line disease — an infection that occurs between the hoof wall and the underlying hoof structure — can cause the hoof to crack, crack, or chip.
If wet, dry or very hard conditions are to blame, you may have to change the horse’s environment. If mud or wetness is an issue, your horse may have to spend at least part of the day on a dry surface, such as wood chips or dry sand, which will help absorb moisture. If dry conditions are an issue, many will let their sinks overflow, creating a wet area where the horse must stand to drink. Hoof oil may not help, as these products may trap moisture. In extreme cases, a cracked hoof can affect a horse’s health, and shoes, spikes, or other support materials may need to reinforce the hoof while the cracked hoof heals. If laminitis or serious infection is involved, a veterinarian can prescribe treatment options such as antibiotics.
A good farrier’s balanced pruning and good nutrition are the cornerstones of good hoof health. If the horse must travel on rough surfaces, such as roads, gravel, rocks, or ice, consider using shoes or boots. Some horses will “grow strong” if gradually exposed to these surfaces, but some may remain sensitive all the time and need some extra protection. It’s important to realize that because hooves grow relatively slowly, repairing cracks can be a long and slow process.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your veterinarian right away. For health-related questions, be sure to consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know your pet’s health history, and can provide the best advice for your pet.