Horse hoof injuries are the first cause of lameness. The horse’s hoof is a remarkably small structure to support such a large animal, and as such it’s subject to tremendous forces. The hoof is also in constant contact with a wide variety of environmental conditions that will naturally impact its health.
Sustained wet or damp conditions can foster the growth of bacteria. Stones and hard surfaces cause bruises; excessive dry conditions can cause the hard hoof lamina to crack, and systemic infections and overeating can manifest themselves in foot injuries and diseases. Here are some of the more common horse hoof injuries.
- Brittle Feet: Numerous small cracks at the bottom of the hoof wall.
- Bruised Sole and Corns: Occurs in horses with thin soles or flat feet.
- Gravel: Common term for drainage at the coronary band.
- Horse Founder (Laminitis): This condition is so severe that we’ve got the main page for it.
- Mud Fever, Cracked Heels, Scratches Three terms for the same condition.
- Navicular Syndrome: This is a poorly understood condition of the foot.
- Hoof Wall Cracks: Usually, originate at the weight-bearing surface.
- Seedy Toe: Can be secondary to the founder (Laminitis).
- Thrush: Easily corrected.
Brittle Feet is a horse’s hoof injury that’s characterized by numerous small cracks at the bottom of the hoof wall. The exact cause of this problem has never been identified, but it’s most prevalent during the summer months. Unshod horses with brittle feet can become infected, and those with shoes tend to lose them.
If the horse’s hoof grows too long and overgrows the shoe, it may become prone to cracking, and if the shoe becomes slightly loose, that can also cause the hoof to become damaged.
The key here is regular trimming and if you use shoes, keep them maintained. Although there’s no scientific evidence to support dietary supplements like amino acids such as methionine and biotin, they can’t hurt and may help. Some claim that hoof oil may actually impair the movement of moisture through the hoof and be unhelpful. The prognosis for complete recovery from this horse hoof injury is quite good.
Bruised Sole generally occurs in horses with thin soles or flat feet. It’s a horse hoof injury caused by direct impact from the hard ground, stones or some other trauma. Corns are another form of bruising. They most often occur on the inside of the front feet and are usually caused by leaving the shoes on for too long. Lameness in cases of bruised sole or corns varies in accordance with the degree of the injury.
Most cases of this horse hoof injury can be managed by corrective shoeing or trimming. However, there is a philosophy that holds that improper shoeing is a cause of thin soles and flat feet. The argument holds that keeping the horse barefoot, and careful trimming by a knowledgable farrier will toughen the sole and promote better overall foot and even general health.
As always, if the infection is present in the corn, please consult your veterinarian and consider complementary therapies such as LEPT also known as low energy phototherapy, to speed healing.
Magnetic therapy has also been promoted as a useful modality for healing infections, but we have not seen any clinical evidence to sustain those claims. If you are aware of any scientific studies that support the efficacy of magnetic therapy, please Let us know about them.
Gravel is a common term for drainage at the coronary band. Traditionally, this horse hoof injury was thought to be the result of a small piece of gravel that penetrated the horse’s sole and migrated up to the coronary band. However, it’s actually an infection that migrates up through the hoof and breaks out as an abscess. This condition may also be secondary to Seedy Toe in cases of chronic laminitis.
In an otherwise healthy horse, it’s tough to diagnose this condition until the lesion breaks out, but you’ll want to carefully examine the horse’s sole to see if there’s any evidence of a puncture wound. I know that sounds contradictory, since we said it’s not caused by migrating stone after all, but it may very well be the result of a puncture wound such as might occur by stepping on a nail or some other pointed object.
The prognosis for full recovery from this horse hoof injury is good unless the case is one of chronic laminitis.
Hoof Wall Cracks
Hoof Wall Cracks are usually vertical, and generally originate at the weight-bearing surface. If they start at the bottom of the hoof and extend upwards, they’re Grass Cracks and if they begin at the coronary band and extend downwards, they’re called Sand Cracks. Grass cracks are frequently caused by the foot being overgrown and splitting.
If the cracks are superficial, they require no treatment, and should eventually grow out. However, deep cracks should be stabilized, and may become infected. Stabilization may be achieved by filling the crack with an acrylic resin or by application of a corrective shoe. Your farrier and your vet can give you the best advice on your particular case of this horse hoof injury.
This condition describes the separation of the laminae of the hoof wall. The separation generally begins at the white line along the toe and progresses upwards. In most cases, the cavity is filled with necrotic (dead) horn material, and is subject to infection with anaerobic bacteria and yeasts, which are common hoof contaminants. In extreme cases, the infection can liquefy hoof keratin, separating the sensitive laminae, progressing ultimately to rotation of the pedal bone as in laminitis. Seedy toe can also appear as a secondary condition to founder (laminitis).
Providing the horse is not lame and infection has not set in, this horse hoof injury can be managed by your farrier. He’ll keep the toe trimmed fairly short so that it does not work as a lever and contribute to complicating the situation.
If the infection has set in, you will need to involve your veterinarian. He will make a full examination and determine the best course of treatment for this horse hoof injury. In many cases, antibiotics may be required to stem the infection, and complementary therapies like LEPT, also known as low energy phototherapy, will speed recovery.
Magnetic therapy has also been promoted as a useful modality for healing infections, but we have not seen any clinical evidence to sustain those claims. If you are aware of any scientific studies that support the efficacy of magnetic therapy, please let us know about them.