What causes hoof cracks? There are many factors that contribute to the development of hoof cracks and understanding the cause is the key to developing a solution.
Infrequent Trim Schedule
The first factor and the one that is easiest to remedy is an infrequent trim schedule. As the hoof wall grows, leverage increases and if this leverage is not relieved by a trim, the hoof will crack. Although it has been common to trim horses on a 6 to 8 week schedule, many people are now opting for shorter intervals and 4 week schedules are gaining in popularity.
A lack of balance is yet another contributing factor. If a hoof is not balanced front to back (anterior/posterior) and side to side (medial/lateral) the weight being placed on the hoof wall will be concentrated in a smaller area. Eventually a crack will result due to the uneven distribution of weight. Although imbalances can be due to a poor trim, it can also be a result of a horse's conformation, or related to compensation as the result of an injury. If you identify an imbalance in your horse's hooves it is critical that you also determine the source of that imbalance.
The third factor that can contribute to a crack is an abscess which has blown out the hoof wall. Abscesses compromise the integrity of the hoof wall and allow an entry point for dirt and bacteria. Scar damage from a prior injury or abscess can disrupt the growth of the hoof wall and result in a crack when this damaged area grows out to ground level.
Cracks can also start from the inside. Horses that suffer from metabolic syndrome are at risk of developing hoof cracks from white line separation. Hoof walls that are thin or shelly are also at risk of splitting. For horses with these issues it may be necessary to switch to feed that is low in starch and high in fiber. Evaluation of the forage may reveal deficiencies in Copper and Zinc, supplementing these minerals can result in improved hoof wall integrity.
Relieving leverage at the toe.
Opening the area.
Although cracks are unsightly, they are generally superficial and can be easily resolved with a balanced diet and trim. For cracks that linger, it may be necessary to have your hoof care practitioner open the area with a hoof knife or dremel. This will expose the area to air and make it easier to apply medications that neutralize bacteria, fungus and yeast. EasyCare offers a selection of hoof boots that can be applied to protect the compromised hoof wall as it heals. The Easyboot Epic, Old Mac's G2, and Easyboot Trail are all options for horses that need to wear a boot in turn out.
Fully grown out crack.
Submitted by Sossity Gargiulo, Wild Hearts Hoof Care