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Meet Katy... (Cracked Hooves)

Katy jpeg


Katy is a 5 year old thoroughbred mare currently owned by Sue Barton. Katy had originally been rescued by another client and was in terrible condition. She had been left in a field where there was no provision of food, water or shelter. When I first examined Katy after she was rescued she was in such poor condition I gave her a 50% chance of surviving her first week. However thankfully she made great progress and after months of careful management she was fit and well and ready to go on to some ridden work and it was then Sue bought her.


Due to Katy’s severe malnutrition her hooves had been of very poor quality with several cracks and pieces broken off the walls and generally collapsed very flat conformation.  With the care she had received since being rescued her feet did improve but she had developed major cracks at the toes of both her fore feet. These were what are known as “grass cracks” as they started at the ground and cracked up to the coronary band. There are several factors which can contribute to the formation of these cracks including poor quality horn (genetic or diet related), foot imbalance, foot infections (seedy toe and white line disease) amongst others.


Katy’s cracked hooves were particularly bad as they extended right up to the coronary band on both feet and were starting to damage them. The result of these large cracks was that her feet were completely unstable and the two “halves” could be pulled apart several millimetres using just your hands. In most cases this will cause pain and therefore lameness and there is a greatly increased risk of bacteria entering the foot and causing abscesses.


Treatment for these hoof wall cracks can be done in a number of different ways dependant on the position of the crack and what distance it has travelled up the hoof. The majority of these type of cracks will need stabilising with a quarter clip shoe (like a “back shoe” with 2 clips) to prevent spreading at the toe.   As well as the shoe the crack can be halted by several methods:



  • By burning or burring a circular or inverted triangle shape at the top of the crack ensuring the hole goes deeper into the hoof than the crack. The crack and the hole will then grow out over time.




  • Metal stitches or staples have been used to stabilise the crack until it has grown out. These are taken out each time the hoof is trimmed.





  • Nowadays more frequently used is the wide range of plastics made available through new technology. These generally are applied into a channel, which has been burred out, whilst soft and they harden as they cool and are exposed to the air.   These plastics can then be trimmed and rasped like the rest of the hoof.


Working in conjunction with farrier Paul Conroy, Katy’s cracked hooves were treated with a combination of shoes and the pliable plastic described in point 3 above. The 2 cracks were burred out to create a channel approximately 1cm wide with a number of branches to help fix the plastic in place. This treatment was done under sedation. The area was then cleaned and the filler pushed into the channel and allowed to cool. It was then rasped smooth and Katy has been re-shod regularly as the crack has grown out.   The treatment has been ongoing for 6 months now and probably still has a couple of months to go but her feet are completely different to how they were when we started. This is thanks to the excellent work of the farrier Paul Conroy and his apprentice Sam.


Cracked Hoof jpeg


It is obviously better that a horses’ feet never get in this condition and regular farriery and a good diet goes a long way to preventing it but should it happen these cracks are readily treatable.



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