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What to do with

Horse Hoof Cracks

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Hoof Cracks

Hoof cracks are not all unusual in the horse world, and
they come in a variety of depths, positions on the hoof, lengths,
and causes.

While hoof wall material is flexible, it, like most materials,
possesses a given breaking point. In this case, vertical shear.
The number of corrections that have been employed over
the years is a rather lengthy list.

A simplified version would include:

Corrective shoeing only (usually a bar shoe and side clips);
burning or rasping a horizontal notch at the upper limit of the
crack; full rubber or plastic pads of various designs to place weight-
bearing away from the crack; taking weight off the affected area
by removing a portion of the wall at the crack site; utilizing
implants (screws, wires, suture material, clamps,
and even shoeing nails);
various prosthetic hoof wall repair materials (epoxies,
acrylics, fiberglass, rubber, etc.)

In some instances, combinations of the above are utilized.

Persistent toe cracks, like mentioned above, often have an
underlying problem-that is, the crack is the result of underlying
hoof wall damage. In many instances, the toe wall for
varying reasons is separated on its underlying softer tissue
attachments. This separation, if it exists, could be a result
of mild rotation of the coffin bone (founder) within the
hoof capsule, so-called "white line disease," the result of
past hoof trauma (similar to having your own big toe
stepped on with subsequent separation), and other problems
affecting the hoof wall. In any case, there may be an
underlying cause that needs to be addressed. Perhaps the
best way to get further information is with radiographs
(X rays) of the involved foot.

The initial attempt at repair utilized in this case was
appropriate- it just simply didn't work on this horse. The basic principle of hoof wall crack repair is to stabilize the forces which
keep the crack in place. Of all the methods listed above,
my favorite employs the use of what is termed a composite repair.

The process begins by thoroughly exploring the involved
area and removing any debris or foreign material that
exists in and around the crack. Often, if sufficient instability
is apparent, I will suture the crack (via drill holes in the
walls) to help establish such stability. I will then fill and cover the
defect and suture material with an acrylic compound. This,
in turn, will be covered with a space-age fabric (Kevlar,
Spectra, etc.) which is impregnated and covered with the
same acrylic material. Following an appropriate curing
of the material, the horse is appropriately shod. This
technique, in my experience, has been the most likely to
provide results.

It is important to reiterate that the success of repair is
dependent upon two basic principles:
1) What is the cause and can we deal with it; and
2) establishing stability at the crack site.

At this point in time, the gelding is not experiencing pain
and lameness, but keep in mind that equation could change
rapidly, therefore it is worth the attempt. Before proceeding
further, I would have your veterinarian and farrier thoroughly
examine this particular foot for underlying defects-the
nature of the defect could alter the chosen method of repair.

William A. Moyer, DVM, is head of the large animal
medicine and surgery facility at Texas A&M's College
of Veterinary Medicine, and he is chairman of the
American Association of Equine Practitioners' Equine
Insurance Committee.

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