Hoof Cracks

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Q: My six year old Thoroughbred has a crack in the toe of his right front hoof. It is about 1 inch in length. What should I do to make sure this crack does not get larger? Several shoeings have not taken care of this. His hoofs tend to flare as they grow and growth is very slow.

Thank you.

A: Most cracks are the result of shock and concussion or direct trauma. They can also be caused by improper shoeing or trimming or by poor hoof quality.

I will assume that your horse's toe crack originates at the bottom of the hoof and that the horse is not lame since more exact information is not given. Different types and severity of cracks require much different methods of treatment.

You stated that your horse's hoofs tend to flare as they grow out and that growth is very slow. There are several points that we need to consider. First of all, the horse's general health. Is he on a balanced diet? Are his vitamin, mineral other nutritional needs being met either by his feed or with supplements? I mention his nutritional needs first because a 6-year-old should not have very slow hoof growth.

Have you discussed this crack with your veterinarian? I'm not trying to run up unnecessary expenses for you, but this horse may need to be examined by a vet and have some blood work done. This could show a deficiency that may cause poor hoof quality and slow growth.

Given a healthy horse, balancing and leveling a horse's feet and properly shoeing the horse will usually take care of hoof cracks. You say, however, that several shoeings have not resolved your problem. You do not say whether this horse has been shod by the same individual consecutively and on a timely schedule. A crack that has gone on for several shoeings might lead one to be suspect of the type of shoeing and trimming this horse has been receiving.

I need to get on my soap box briefly as yours is the kind of problem that is constantly coming up as the result of unqualified individuals shoeing horses. Of course without seeing your horse I cannot say whether this is the case here. Many horse owners hire their farrier on the basis of low price, he's a nice guy, he's been doing it for a long time, he's a family member, or other reasons having no relation to expertise as a farrier. If you read my web site, you will see constant references to contacting the American Farrier's Association and requesting brochures on how to select a farrier. Once again, their phone number is 1-606-233-7411.

The ultimate solution to any hoof problem once the horse's health is under control is to hire the best farrier available. He may not be the cheapest or even the most personable, but his level of expertise should be your reason for hiring him. Once you have the best farrier you can find, allow him to shoe your horse on the schedule he recommends. Letting your horse go a mere week or two past the optimum time for him to be shod will negate all the good work your farrier can do.

Also, as a horse owner, you have the responsibility to educate yourself as to what is proper hoof care and what is proper trimming and shoeing. Not to make a horseshoer of you, but so you can be knowledgeable enough to be involved in the process of your horse's health. There always needs to be a team effort of the owner, the farrier and the veterinarian.

If your horse were standing here in front of me, and the vet and I had concurred after a thorough examination that we have a young and healthy horse here with no problems other than a persistent crack, I would deal with the crack in this manner as the farrier:

First balance and level the foot.

Next remove all dirt and any loose horn. Dremel back the hoof wall to where it is solidly attached to healthy horny laminae. Then roughen approximately one inch of outside hoof wall on either side of the crack area and clean it with acetone. Fill that area in solid with an Equilox patch and apply a full support shoe with a rocker toe.

Remember--hoof cracks do not heal closed. New hoof horn must grow down from the coronary band.

I have had to make assumptions to answer your question. My answer is based on my years of experience shoeing horses.

Geronimo Bayard
The American Blacksmith
Oakland, Oregon

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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.