Thursday, April 17, 2008

No hoof, no horse (not much sleep, either)

Never a dull moment
In my equestrian life, there is never a dull moment. Harvey is gimpy, but for good reason: He's 21 and needs a break from riding. Every so often, his body tells me he needs a 2 week vacation. He always comes back strong.

Giving Harv a break, I have more time for Riley. And a good thing too. The other day as I was grooming him, I went to pick up his left hind. Looking down, my heart skipped a beat. WHAT'S THAT??? A crack. Not a small one. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

Etiology: Unknown
His feet have always been pretty strong, they don't chip much, and he's trimmed about every month. This last time we went six weeks. HOW could this have happened?

Getting good advice
I called my regular farrier and scheduled an appointment. I also emailed Harvey's vet, who also happens to be a farrier too. I emailed him pix, and here is his response:

The crack looks more benign than serious but is the result of the foot growth outpacing wear and the resulting imbalance has allowed the hoof wall to flair and pull away a little bit.

I would trim the horse more regularly than you are doing now - I would recommend every 4 weeks. Keep the toe shorter and the side of the foot with the crack I would trim or rasp back to relieve pressure. I would also groove the crack at the top and a bout a third of the way down to dissipate the pressure to widen.

On Wednesday my regular farrier came out. He was baffled by the crack, and he was sure there was no crack last time he trimmed Riley. He was far more concerned than Harv's vet.

We talked about several options.
  1. Minimal option. Trim back, rasp back to relieve pressure, trim more frequently. The drawback to this is that the farrier does not think the crack will grow out -- as the hoof grows, it expands, and the crack will expand as the hoof grows. Bummer.
  2. Shoes. It's awfully early to start shoeing, and even shoeing "full" it's likely to affect hoof growth. Riley isn't mature enough to handle the shoeing process, would need to be drugged. But it would stabilize the hoof and promote healthy, crack-free growth.
  3. Lacing/stapling. My farrier didn't seem all that eager to go this route, but I don't recall why.
  4. New-fangled technology and techniques. My farrier will consult with his farrier colleagues to see what products might be successful with this problem

Treatment plan:Start conservative and monitor
Our game plan is option 1 and option 4. Riley was trimmed on April 16, and the farrier "scored" where the crack ended. I noticed at the time that there were several marks, and the highest one, which was fairly light, was the top.

Today, when I checked his foot, it seemed the crack had grown. Or was it just that the scoring at the top was too light to see easily? ARRRGH!

Well, I'll keep you posted. I'm always interested in experiences and advice of others--leave a comment!


  1. I have never had a hoof crack, yipes! i really hope you are able to come up with a treatment plan that works for everyone.

  2. My horses have survived several cracks. Wet dry conditions, which we have a lot of here in Texas, can cause a hoof to contract and then expand too quickly. I found with my old guy something that contributed to his cracks (which he seems to get easily, but they are fairly benign), was too much green pasture. His feet had been doing well since I'd started him on Equipride, but last summer there was an unusual amount of rain, lots of pasture, and his feet cracked. This spring, we are starting out early with the grazing muzzle. My other horse has to wear a muzzle in the green grass season. I just want to encourage you that it's not the end of the world. He may have hit a rock. The only time I ever used shoes on a crack on my horse was when he had a really bad one, but looking back, I think it had more to do with his diet. Avoid shoes if you can. This crack doesn't really warrent that, IMHO.

  3. Thanks for the info Kitty bo! I have been blessed with a TB with indestructible feet - how rare is that? So I'm a bit out of my depth on this. Appreciate your advice!

  4. A good friend of mine has a TB with great hooves, so you're not alone there. The only time he has ever had shoes on was when he had a bad crack. He was older than Harvey, so he handled the shoeing process without tranq. He was also being ridden, which was another factor leaning towards shoes. I think you're taking the right approach for now. Give it the 4 weeks and see.

    Good luck!


  5. I'm dealing with one of these right now. I totally understand your frustration. Mine is on a broodmare and no one but me seems to be concerned because she is a broodmare. I think it shouldn't matter what her job is, a crack is a crack.

  6. Fred gets wee cracks like that all the time in his front feet. I just leave them to be honest and they grow down. Getting feet done more often helps. Fred used to be done every 5 weeks and it really helped.

  7. That is a nasty looking crack, I've never had to deal with one, so I'm no help. I do hope your treatment helps.

  8. I hate to even write this, but Kaswyn has yet to have a hoof crack. He has popped a few gravels, which I'm lucky popped out instead of making abcesses.

    Best of luck, I know you'll make the best decisions and he'll get over it quickly.


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