Decoding Hoof Cracks

Horse owners can attest that the old adage “No hoof, no horse” is one truest about equine care. Any defect in a hoof wall can be worrisome as the health and integrity of the hoof wall is imperative for overall horse health. Some issues can look concerning, but be non-issues, while others may require intense care to rectify.

Here are some types of cracks and what the level of concern they should elicit:

  • Though hoof cracks can look scary, small, vertical cracks that start at the ground and extend only an inch or so up the hoof wall are of minor concern. The farrier will most likely take care of these when he or she is out next.
  • Horizontal cracks less than an inch wide that start at the coronet band and grow down are typically the result of a minor injury to the coronary band that briefly inhibited hoof production. It’s rare that intervention is needed for these cracks; they will grow out on their own.
  • Vertical cracks at the bottom of the hoof that wrap around to the underside of the hoof and involve the sole could be more than just a superficial defect. If it looks like any other structures than just the hoof wall are involved, this could become a significant issue.
  • Long, vertical cracks that don’t ever seem to grow out are a sign that a hoof is chronically unbalanced. Even if the crack is thin, it is worth having a conversation with the farrier to see if a new manner of trimming or shoeing may be necessary.
  • Cracks that flex and open each time the horse takes a step, cracks that bleed or cracks that make a horse lame requires an immediate call to the veterinarian and farrier. Both professionals will need to work together to resolve the issue, but time is of the essence and these cracks need to be addressed immediately.

Read more at EQUUS magazine.

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