Proximal Hoof Cracks

Q: Could someone please discuss any experience they may have had with hoof cracks that start at the hairline? What causes them and how can they best be treated when shoeing?

—Brigitte Malessa

A: In my experience, hoof cracks at the hairline are nearly always associated with underrun heels and with either a high-impact loading situation (such as a racehorse) or a badly out-of-balance foot that’s landing heavily on one heel. When this occurs, the heel wall folds under, compressing the internal structures of the foot and the weak point in the wall (the coronary band) blows out.

To fix the situation, you need to trim the heels to solid, undistorted horn — even if it means using wedge pads — and transfer some of the load elsewhere with proper balance, trimming, frog pressure pads, sole support material, bar shoes or some combination that seems suitable to the situation.

—Jack Evers,

A: I’ve found that many of the horses in our area also develop vertical hairline cracks in the quarters, even when the heels are pretty “normal.”

I’ve tried several approaches to dealing with these cracks, but have only had success when the hoof became balanced again. This may mean that the hoof needs to be floated or relieved, and positioned so that it’s not in contact with the shoe (in line with the tubules from where the crack is). Usually the hoof will be pushed up, or what some farriers refer to as “jammed up,” to the point…

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