Horses spend more and more of their day turned out in the warmer weather which is good news for him but not always as good for his hooves, and horse owners must examine the hoof wall and sole at least once a day to check for damage.
One of the most common signs of damage are hoof cracks which appear in the hoof wall. Some can be fairly superficial, whereas others are much deeper, penetrating the hoof wall and causing lameness. Hoof cracks can be caused by poor nutrition, unequal weight bearing, hard ground, abscess or injury, therefore good horse husbandry and regular trimming and shoeing will have a huge impact on the health of your horse’s hoof.
If you do spot a hoof crack, no matter what size, you must seek immediate attention from your farrier and or your vet to determine how to treat it. Some may simply require nutritional supplements such as biotin to strengthen the hoof wall, but chronic hoof cracks will require remedial shoeing and stabling in large well ventilated stall to rest the limbs. Here we have created a list of the most common hoof cracks to help you identify and treat any damage before it becomes an issue for your horse.
Grass / Sand cracks
These are common cracks typically found in horses who are not exercised regularly, who have a poor diet or who have not had their hooves regularly trimmed. Lack of blood flow to the hoof and lack of nutrition can cause the outer wall to become brittle, and long hooves can quickly develop cracks. Grass cracks start from the ground and move upward, whereas Sand cracks originate from the coronary band and extend downward toward the sole of the foot.
Heel cracks are extremely painful for horses and are usually the result of poor shoeing. If the farrier does not ensure that the heel of the shoe covers the heel of the hoof, the exposed area can become damaged and sore, leading to cracks. Conversely, shoes that are too long can apply too much force to the heel that can also lead to cracks, therefore an experienced farrier should be sought to remedy the issue with correctly fitting shoes.
Bar cracks are found in the folds of the hoof wall either side of the sensitive frog area and are usually caused by trauma to the hoof, such as stepping on a hard or sharp object. These cracks can be very painful, especially if close to the frog or the result of a puncture wound, and will likely require remedial shoeing and/or veterinary attention to avoid infection in the hoof.
These appear at the toe of the hoof and are usually the result of overloading. If the horse has heel pain he will favour landing on his toes which could cause the cracks, or if there is a confirmation defect then this too could result in the cracks.
These are similar to toe cracks in that they appear at the coronary band and are often caused by confirmation defects, uneven weight bearing or trauma, however they can also be symptoms of more serious conditions such as coffin cone defects, fractures or even keratoma of the hoof wall. Quarter cracks are often accompanied by bleeding and infection and will require x rays to confirm the exact cause before treatment can commence.