Today I thought I’d talk about another caudal heel issue … Quarter Cracks.
Quarter cracks are those deep cracks in the quarter of the hoof that can cause lameness in the horse and be the genesis to infections in the hooves.
Quarter cracks can be the most aggravation of all cracks to manage, usually starting at the coronary band and furthering down towards the ground. They are generally caused by an uneven foot landing from imbalances of some sort in the hoof – imbalances caused by limb deformities, neglected hoof care, coffin bone issues such as fractures, keratomas or even abscesses or other infections in the hoof. The majority of quarter cracks that I saw and worked on were from gross imbalances of the hoofs from inadequate hoofcare/trimming/farrier work. Secondary to that was abscessing or infection.
Quarter cracks are not to be confused with sand cracks or other superficial cracks one sees commonly on hooves. Quarter cracks run deep in the quarters and, if one watches closely while the hoof is being loaded, one can see one side of the wall being pushed up more than the other since the wall is 'split' in that crack.
The photo above shows a horse that is not only showing a nasty scar with a quarter crack but secondary infection in the quarter of the hoof. This horse was also laminitic but was still being worked under saddle as a camp horse. She actually ended up perforating her coffin bone through both front soles. But that's another 'healing story' for another time.
That is why she was ‘rescued’. When she was no longer able to do her ‘work’ she was then relinquished from her ‘duties’ and that's when I was called in to see her. Her new owner was smart to get her and see to it that her health was attended immediately after rescuing this horse.
This photo shows her first trim of that hoof with the quarter crack. I removed the shoes and got her as balanced as I possibly could without causing her further pain. Not very pretty looking but as functional and comfortable as I could make her that day. She was then put into boots and careful care was taken as to her diet, her 'exercise' (walking as she could throughout the days), and the immaculate tending of her stall and paddock.
And these ^^^ are the solar views before and after the removal of the shoes and the 1st trim –
One can plainly see the gross distortion of the hoof as well as the other maladies that it carried – thrush, sheered heels and long toe.
It “weren’t so pretty”! But it sure was a sight better than when I first started the trim!
So how does one go about getting rid of a quarter crack?
Determining the cause of the quarter cracks is paramount to knowing how to correct them and eradicate them for good. Radiographs coupled with sound veterinarian diagnosis will help the hoofcare practitioner be able to ascertain how to go about successful rehabilitation.
Eradication of the causative effect will have a strong bearing on whether or not the horse can be totally rehabilitated to go back into work. Ferreting out whether it is caused from imbalances of the hooves or a congenital fault in the limb or perhaps the horse is being worked hard on hard or uneven surfaces with less-than-optimally-healthy hooves is crucial to being able to determine what caused the crack to begin with.
Of course, I advocate for any shoes to be removed for a barefoot rehabilitation.
If the hoof is infected with a secondary infection the situation must be tended properly at the same time the hooves are being balanced correctly with good trimming. Good trimming will stabilize the hoof so there is little to no excessive pressure applied to the hoof wall at the crack from ground bearing weight. I personally will bevel or ‘float’ the wall at the distal edge of the hoof to avoid pressure being applied from the loading of the hoof.
The diet must be scrutinized and supplemented with appropriate healing factors. Emotional health of the horse is important as stress will absolutely affect the healing process. The housing and paddocks must be immpecably taken care of. And, of course, movement of the horse is paramount as the stimulation of movement will increase blood circulation to the hooves allowing more oxygen and good nutrients to feed the hooves. Never "force" the horse to walk but 'encourage' movement -- one can place water at one end of the paddock with feed at the other and both a little bit away from the shelter to encourage the horse to walk. If the horse is relatively comfortable, barefoot or in boots, then gentle 'walks in hand' should be taken regularly throughout the day.
Remembering that it takes a good 8 to 12 months for a brand new hoof to generate fully from the coronary band to the ground one can expect a good recovery if all facets of the regeneration process is tended correctly.
And here is the result of the rehabilitation of this girl after just 6 months …
Aren't horses just amazing?
Aren't hooves incredible examples of creative engineering?
Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here: www.thepenzancehorse.com/2012/RESUME.pdf