Frederick, Md., farrier Doug Anderson explains why surface cracks shouldn't be ignored.

Small surface cracks tend not to be a functional problem. However, if they’re ignored and left untreated, they can cause major functional and structural faults.

In the beginning stages, surface cracks are easy to control when you take control of the environment. Either move the horse out of a wet environment or use an oil-based topical treatment. Any time topical products are used, it’s important that the entire foot is thoroughly dry and not just the surface. It’s also important to note that improved dynamic function of the hoof capsule will always help in solving this problem.

If not treated, surface cracks often get worse and become larger. This creates a perfect environment for anaerobic bacteria and fungus inside the crack, attacking the inner hoof wall. In extreme cases, this will compromise the structural integrity of the entire foot.

I’ve seen clients try to nurse these things along using various topical remedies. While sometimes successful, these methods often take a long time to work and are not always the solution.

Once these cracks become invasive and affect the soundness of the horse, drastic measures may be needed. One option is to further open the crack and cut out the entire compromised hoof within the crack to allow air to get in and dry out the tissue. Depending on the crack, foot and demands on the horse, reconstruction may be necessary. This tends to be invasive, time-consuming and expensive.

Ultimately, the best solution is a consistently dry environment. I’ve found a direct conversation with the owner or trainer goes a long way toward reaching that solution.

Doug Anderson, Frederick, Md.