Your horse’s feet are some of the most important structures contributing to his performance ability, and most people do what they can to keep them healthy. Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong with your horse that can cause hoof cracks to form. Maybe he pulled a shoe in the pasture or grabbed his heel during a competition. Perhaps conditions have been muddy or icy. Sometimes you don’t know what happened. Still, there it is: A crack. What can be done about it?

Most cracks are superficial and grow out without consequence. However, there are instances where the crack is more severe, or what appears to be superficial becomes more serious. Then you could be looking at lameness, infection, and a much longer recovery time.

The Normal Hoof

The hoof is composed of a number of regions, including the wall, sole, frog, and the white line. The hoof wall bears most of the horse’s weight and is most vulnerable to wear and trauma. Directly inside the hoof wall is leaf-like epidermal that interlocks with the inner dermal laminae, anchoring the hoof to the coffin bone. This allows the hoof wall to grow down while still being attached to the third phalanx (coffin bone) inside the hoof.

The sole covers the bottom of the horse’s foot and protects the coffin bone from injury. It should be concave, which keeps it from bearing weight and helps support the bony column. The frog, which is also on the bottom of the foot, is relatively soft and triangular and helps absorb shock and maintain traction. Finally, the white line is about an eighth of an inch wide and is the junction between the sole and wall. It serves as a gui