Seriousness of Hoof Cracks

The racing community and thousands of fans were waiting in anticipation for the prognosis of the hoof crack that was found on Big Brown’s left front hoof. The quarter crack was treated by Ian MacKinlay, a hoof specialist, and Big Brown should be back on track to take on the Belmont Stakes on 7 June 2008. The fact that the hoof crack could be repaired was a great relief to all those who are pinning their hopes on Big Brown being the next Triple Crown winner, and even though some hoof cracks are repairable, there are some that can cause serious injury and pain to horses.

Hoof cracks can be found on any horse breed and can be caused by a few factors. Thin hoof walls, dry hooves and running on hard surfaces are the common reasons for horses suffering hoof cracks of varied severity. In the case of Big Brown, it is suspected that a bruise at the bottom of his foot initiated a separation of the hoof wall, causing the quarter crack. A quarter crack refers to a vertical crack in the wall of a hoof that typically starts at the coronary band. Ian MacKinlay was able to repair the crack by stitching it together. The stitching will be replaced by a fiberglass reinforcing patch that is applied to the crack with adhesive after it has been cleaned out.

Fiberglass applications are often used by veterinarians and farriers, and have been proven to be an effective way to repair cracks. Other alternatives after cleaning the cracks include the trimming of the hoof and shoeing. The danger in hoof cracks lies in the infection that can form within the crack. If not treated in time, a crack can cause an abscess to form within the hoof. Such an abscess cannot drain. The abscess in turn, becomes the source of infection and if spread to the laminae, a laminitis infection can occur, which is sometimes fatal. In the past, laminitis was looked upon as an incurable disease, but as technology advances, it seems to bring hope and better treatment of laminitis.

For ordinary horse owners, good hoof care is essential in combating hoof cracks. Ensuring that hoofs are trimmed and treated, and ensuring that hoofs do not lose their moisture through moisturizing hoof products, are the first steps to hoof care. Dietary needs can also be looked at and the fast reaction and treatment of hoof cracks can prevent infections and lameness. Preventative hoof care can safeguard horses against lameness and pain, and save horse owners from weeks of worry and medical care.