Horse Hoof Cracks and Lameness

Can a horse go lame because of extreme hoof cracks and not being trimmed regularly?
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Horse hoof cracks
While most hoof cracks are superficial and do not cause much pain, horses can become lame due to deep hoof cracks that reach the sensitive inner structures of the foot. | Photo: iStock
Q. Can a horse go lame because of extreme hoof cracks and not being trimmed regularly? If so, is there anything you can do to reverse hoof cracks?

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A. While most hoof cracks are superficial and do not cause much pain, horses can become lame due to deep hoof cracks that reach the sensitive inner structures of the foot. Routine regular hoof care (trimming and shoeing) is strongly recommended for every horse to prevent them from developing cracks and lameness.

Hoof cracks can be caused by long, untrimmed, and/or unbalanced feet creating hoof wall flares and separation of the hoof wall from the white line. Some other causes are environmental factors such as an environment that shifts from wet to dry. A wet environment allows moisture, mud, dirt, and debris to migrate through the hoof wall separations. When the hoof environment dries, the debris becomes trapped inside the hoof capsule, allowing anaerobic (not requiring oxygen) bacteria to take over.

Poor hoof wall quality due to nutritional deficiencies can also play a role in hoof cracks. Therefore, besides routine regular hoof care, a balanced diet and hoof supplements can help your horse’s hoof quality. In my experience, certain hoof dressings applied over the coronary band (I use Contender by Kinetic) will stimulate a healthy hoof growth.

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Raul Bras DVM, CJF, grew up in Puerto Rico where he showed and bred Paso Fino horses. He earned his undergraduate degree in animal science from Louisiana State University, graduated from Ross University Veterinary School in 2005, and completed his clinical year at Auburn University. In 2005, Bras completed a surgery internship at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, in Lexington, Kentucky. The following year he stayed on as an associate veterinarian in Rood & Riddle’s podiatry department, where he’s now a shareholder. Bras completed Cornell University’s farrier program in 2007 and became an American Farriers Association Certified Journeyman Farrier in 2010. In addition to providing his expertise in equine podiatry in Lexington, Bras travels throughout the United States and internationally to treat horses. He’s devoted to the betterment of the vet-farrier relationship. In 2015, he was inducted into the International Equine Veterinarian Hall of Fame.

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