As a horse is constantly on their feet, developing hoof cracks at some point in their life is inevitable. Many of these will heal themselves over time with the right nutrition and hoof care; however, there is a wide range of hoof cracks with some needing a little more attention than others. Petplan will take you through what you need to know about hoof cracks, the warning signs and hot to treat and prevent them.
Due to a horse’s hoof growing at a slow rate, you will have an extended period of time to work out why it is cracking. Finding the cause of the problem is far cheaper and a lot less time consuming than trying to find a solution to fixing the crack. So before you start trying different solutions to fix the crack, your first step should be working out why.
Causes of hoof cracks
Understanding why hooves crack can lead to a much quicker recovery for the horse and save you time, money and overall frustration. One of the main causes for cracks is due to a nutritional deficiency – which is quite easily resolved with the right nutrition and a good farrier.
Another cause relates to the hoof getting too much moisture over extended periods of time. A little bit of moisture for the hoof is fine. However, if a horse is exposed to extremely wet or cold conditions and then go to dry and hard ground, the material around the hoof can expand and weaken. Along with this, riding your horse on hard or rocky surfaces can lead to cracking or chipping in the hoof.
Different types of cracks
Hoof cracks can happen on all hooves, with the shape and positioning of the crack leading to certain causes. A nutritional deficiency in the horse may lead to horizontal cracks or lines on all four of the hooves, whereas if only one hoof is affected, then this can be ruled out as a cause. When only the front hooves are affected, concussion cracks from hard surfaces may be the cause or it could be a sign of contracted heels.
Cracks that start at the coronary band and extend downward can be either a sand crack or quarter crack. These are usually due to poor trimming of the hooves that leave them uneven and therefore don’t load the weight evenly across the four hoofs.
If you notice the hoof walls are chipping instead of cracking, this may be due to frequent travel over rough surfaces such as rock, grave, or solidified mud.
Treatment and prevention
It is better to prevent your horse from getting cracks then treating them as this will save time, stress, and money. Having a good farrier that knows your horse as well as creating a nutritional diet for them to feed on will be the foundation you need to ensure there is less chance of cracking in the hooves.
If your horse is constantly walking over rough surfaces that are quite harsh on their hoof, you may want to consider shoes or hoof boots for some added protection. In saying this though, if the environment is causing them problems you may have to make some changes. In dry conditions add more water to a certain area to allow for moisture, or in wet areas allow at least half of the horses day in a dry area.
In all cases, it is best to act as soon as you notice a problem to reduce the chance of the crack getting worse and more painful for the horse. If the cracking continues, contact your veterinarian immediately.