Sometimes, hoof cracks are simply a matter of too much horse. Pat Burton, a Burleson, Texas, farrier has seen plenty of cases where a hoof is stressed because the horse is too heavy for his foot structure.

“One horse I worked on had five quarter cracks — two on each front foot and one on his left hind,” he recalls. “His hoof walls were weak and farriers had been fighting this for several years with different shoes. I have photos of that horse and kept records on his weight from the time I started working on him.

The horse weighed in at 1,475 pounds on March 4, 2009, with a body condition score of 8-plus (a horse that scores an 8 is considered fat; one that scores a 9 is considered extremely fat). The owner was unable to ride the horse due to its intermittent lameness.

By Dec. 17, 2010, the horse’s weight was down to 1,165 pounds and its body condition had improved to a 5-plus (between “moderate” and “moderately fleshy”).

Burton says the owner had stepped up and made significant changes in the horse’s management and lifestyle. This included limiting grazing and improving the footing on which the horse was kept.

 “She dedicated a lot of time and effort, and is now able to ride the horse again in competition,” says Burton. “The relationship of body mass to hoof size is important. Dr. Tracy Turner (a Minnesota veterinarian and member of the International Equine Veterinarians Hall Of Fame) talks about this ratio in pounds-per-square inch. This is why we don’t see quarter cracks very often in miniature horses; they have less body weight for their hoof size,” says Burton.

He suggests using a weight tape to estimate body weight if the owner doesn’t have access to a scale.

“Keep records and take photos,” he advises.

Read more about Pat Burton's work with quarter cracks in the September/October issue of American Farriers Journal.

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