Managing Quarter Cracks

There’s more to dealing with these defects than just patching them — you need to identify and correct the cause as well

Quarter cracks are a common type of hoof capsule defect. Quarter cracks often cause foot lameness and/or decreased athletic performance in race and sport horses. They typically originate at the coronary band in the quarter of the hoof and progress distally. The defect is full thickness, extending into the submural tissue of the hoof, which leads to instability, inflammation and/or infection.

Causes Of Pain

Quarter cracks can be painful due to infection, instability caused by forces placed on or within the crack or by movement of the section of the hoof wall palmar/plantar to the crack. The vertical movement of the heel bulb on the affected side further contributes to this instability. Causes of quarter cracks may include trauma to the coronary band, pre-existing damage to the submural tissue from infection, inappropriate limb conformation, abnormal hoof conformation and a landing pattern in which disproportionate forces are placed on the foot as it strikes the ground.

There are two approaches that can be used to resolve quarter cracks. Giving the horse time off, correcting the cause using appropriate farriery and allowing the defect to grow out is the ideal approach. But often, the problem facing equine practitioners and farriers is that many of the horses that develop quarter cracks must continue to perform. For them to do this, it is essential to combine farriery with a repair that provides strength and stability to the hoof-wall defect, allowing the horse to perform and at the same time promoting healing, so that the…

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Stephen O’Grady

Dr. Steve O’Grady is a veterinarian and a farrier. He operates Virginia Therapeutic Farriery in Keswick, Va., which is a referral practice devoted to equine podiatry and therapeutic farriery You can read informative papers by him at He is a member of the International Equine Veterinarians Hall Of Fame and the American Farriers Journal Editorial Advisory Board.

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