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Everything You Need to Know About Grass Cracks in Horse Hooves

a woman holding a horse's hoof

Horse hoof cracks can occur for several reasons, and genetic or environmental factors can be causes. Some cracks are more superficial and less serious than others. If you inspect your horse’s hoofs daily and keep him or her regularly trimmed you can prevent cracks from appearing at all. Read on to learn about:

  • Grass and sand cracks
  • Sand cracks
  • Heel cracks
  • Bar cracks
  • Toe cracks
  • Quarter cracks

Types of Cracks

Grass cracks

Grass cracks start from the bottom and move upward. They are typically very thin and not deep. They will occur for a number of reasons. One is when there is a quick change in the ground conditions, like from extremely wet to dry conditions. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise can also cause grass cracks. Sand cracks are a type of crack very similar to grass cracks. They begin at the coronary band and go downward. 

Heel cracks

Heel cracks are very painful and occur when the shoe’s heel leaves the horse’s heel uncovered. This is called short shoeing. A crack on the heel can also occur when the shoe is excessively long, causing leverage and too much force to the heel area.

Bar cracks

Bar cracks occur in the bar of the hoof. The bars are on the back of the hoof where the wall turns inward. Cracks in the bar could occur when the horse has stepped on hard or sharp object. Folded bars are weaker and can crack more easily.

white horse
Grass cracks are less worrisome than toe cracks or quarter cracks.

Toe cracks

Toe cracks occur when your horse puts too much wait on the toe. If your horse has heel pain, they are more likely to land toe first. This causes toe concussion and then cracking. There is a lot of research going on about horse hoofs, such as research on diseases in horse hooves done by the Hoof Project Foundation. David Hood, DVM, PhD researches laminitis and how it relates to hoof cracks.

Quarter cracks

They can occur due to uneven foot landing, defects in your horse’s legs, trauma, and abscesses. Uneven foot landing is caused by defects like carpus valgus or carpus varus. These are limb defects in which the legs deviate outward or inward. The neglecting of horse hooves also cause cracks in the quarter of your horse’s hoof. If the hooves are not trimmed regularly, cracks and splits can occur. Other causes include imbalance, and defects to the coffin bone like inflammation and demineralization. Quarter cracks begin at the coronary band and extend toward the ground. They can bleed and become infected, which is extremely painful for your horse. A veterinarian may have to take an x-ray to determine the cause of the crack.

Abscesses cause cracks when the infection drains from the coronary bad. These cracks will grow out as long as they are kept clean and dry. Fight the infection with Fauna Care Anti-fungal spray.

horse legs & hooves stamping in dirt
Horse hooves are very strong but not impervious to damage caused by bad conditions or neglect.

Now What?

If you notice any type of crack on your horse’s hoof, take a picture of it and send to your farrier or veterinarian for them to examine it and determine the nature of the crack. They can then take a look at it in person when they get a chance, but this is a fast way to begin the treatment of your horse. If there is any infection or blood, call the vet or farrier immediately. Your team of trainer/farrier/vet will then determine the cause of the crack. This will help prevent the cracks from occurring again.

Your team will watch your horse walk to see if there is any problem with footfall and the surfaces your horse walks on. As the owner, you may first need to make some changes to your horse’s environment like overly wet or dirty bedding before healing can begin. Know the horse’s diet so the veterinarian can determine if the horse is getting the proper nutrition for healthy hooves. The cracks will then need to be repaired and stabilized. The vet or farrier will have different methods for the repairal of different cracks. Sometimes, you only need to trim to remove the crack. Severe cracks require corrective shoeing. This could include clips on the shoe and implants over the crack.

Sometimes veterinarians will cut away parts of the hoof wall in order to drill small holes on each side of the crack. Wire made of stainless steel is then run through the holes and connected at each end. In other methods, small screws are used in addition to the wire. Hoof-patching glue can be put over the screws so they don’t work their way out.  

horse hooves with horseshoes galloping through mud
There are many effective ways to stabilize the cracks in your horse's hooves

Polymer and acrylic patching, or glue, mixed with fiberglass to make a stronger material is often used to repair and stabilize hoof cracks. However, a bleeding or infected hoof crack that may be filled with bacteria or fungi will not be covered without some sort of drainage in place.  

Many farriers have a lot of experience and are well qualified to treat your horse. If you think your horse may have developed any kind of lameness because of the cracks, contact a veterinarian to meet you and your farrier.

The bottom line is that cracks in your horse’s hoofs can be prevented by daily cleaning and inspection of the hooves. A regular trimming and showing cycle are also important in preventing cracks. Your farrier should be well qualified and keep your horse’s hooves well-balanced. Your horse needs the proper nutrition to support healthy hooves. For example, biotin has been proven to help support healthy hooves. Keep your horse in an environment that is not extremely dry, hard, or wet. Your horse will appreciate this to no end and their health with benefit!

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