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Equine Health Resource

Hoof Wall Seems Dry & Brittle, Cracks Easily

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

    The quality of any horse’s hoof tissue depends on a variety of factors including genetics, nutrition, general health, hoof health and environmental factors. For a horse with seemingly dry, brittle hooves that crack off, these factors all play a role. Diseases that affect the hoof like laminitis reduce the quality of the hoof tissues too.

    When you notice a change in the appearance of your horse’s hooves, it usually reflects the history of the hoof and the horse. It is similar to the way a tree’s growth rings reflect the tree’s history.

    The hoof wall grows out at about 1 cm (or about 3/8″) per month so if the top 3cm looks different than the lower part, that is an indication that something changed 3 months ago – a change in health, nutrition, management, etc. took place then or since then.

    In most cases, small cracks are caused by brittle hooves and are not associated with lameness. In contrast, large deep cracks are caused by mechanical forces, not just dryness and brittleness.


    Consider your horse’s general health and body condition, because it could be related to the condition of the hooves. Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to body weight, coat, mane and tail quality and the hoof appearance.

    Try to determine whether there is accompanying lameness or apparent stiffness or reluctance to walk on hard surfaces. Look for digital pulse and heat in all the feet.

    Also notice whether the whole hoof is affected or is only part of the hoof? Are all the hooves affected or only one? Take photos of the hooves and send them to your vet for discussion.


    Your vet considers all of the above factors and tries to determine the cause of the lameness, if the horse is lame.

    At that point they may recommend changes in management, or treatment of underlying conditions that may be affecting the horse’s general health and hoof quality. Once underlying factors are addressed, they may recommend additional treatments or supplements.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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