When an equine athlete suffers an injury, the clock begins to tick as pressure increases to get the mount back into competition.

“Fast is the name of the game at the racetrack,” Vero Beach, Fla., farrier Tom Curl told attendees at the 2022 International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio. “You’ve got to get back in the game because you’re losing days for training. If they’re coming right up on a race, they don’t want to lose 5 or 7 days because they’ll never get the horse back and fit in time for the race.”

Curl and Pleasant Grove, Calif., farrier Leah Clarke are well known for successfully repairing hoof cracks on top racehorses and show horses across the country. Every horse is different. As such, each horse responds differently to a hoof wall repair. And you can’t hasten the process.

“The toughest part is not repairing the quarter cracks, it’s the pressure and anxiety of everyone involved to fix the problem immediately,” Clark says. “But you can’t fix the problem immediately until you take the appropriate steps of removing the damaged hoof and cornifying the tissue. You can’t take shortcuts. If you do, the problem will still be there.”

Before jumping into repairing the crack, it’s critical to dry the insult and cornify the tissue.

“If you went through all three layers of the wall down to the lamina bed, you have to get it hard,” Curl explains. “It can’t be soft tissue. As you get it harder, you’ll keep checking it. When you start getting that hard, cornified look on anything that was a little raw looking, you’re getting there. As soon as you get a tanning yellow color, you can clean it up, set your wires; lace and patch it.”

To achieve this goal, Curl and Clarke recommend a mild drying agent such as Thrush Buster or Wonder Dust.

“You won’t burn up a horse with Thrush Buster,” he says. “It’s pretty safe. It provides a lot of advantages because the gentian violet runs everywhere those hoof walls are separated. It allows you to chase it and find where the crack goes.”

One application won’t do on the racetrack, though. The horse needs to get back on the track as quickly as possible. That means the crack is treated with the drying agent every 30 minutes around the clock.

“There’s a night watch at most of the big barns,” Curl explains. “You can turn one in about 72 hours that way. If the contents of the bottle haven’t gone down that much in 3 days, I’ll just turn around and leave. They’ll call and ask where I went. I tell them, ‘You aren’t painting it. Until you paint it, we’re not going to get it taken care of.’”

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