Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Hoof Wall Crack, Parallel to Ground, Horizontal, with Lameness

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • If severe and obvious lameness is visible at the walk.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If the lameness is mild.

Horizontal hoof cracks (parallel to the ground) are caused by injuries that interrupt hoof wall growth at the coronet, the hairline of the hoof where the hoof wall is generated. Whatever the injury, it happened in the past. The lower the crack on the hoof wall, the older the injury that caused it. The crack grows down about 1 cm per month as the hoof wall grows out. Ultimately, the crack reaches the ground surface of the hoof and wears off or is trimmed off.

Many things can cause this interruption that turns into a crack, including sole abscesses opening at the coronet, pressure from a boot, or other trauma to the area.

Horizontal hoof wall cracks usually are not associated with lameness. However, when they are, it is usually because bacteria have colonized and multiplied within the crack, causing a closed infection or an abscess. This can cause severe, even non-weight bearing lameness.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to their temperature and the presence of heat or a digital pulse in the affected hoof and limb. If a horse is severely lame on a limb that has one of these cracks, keep in mind that an infection of the crack could be the cause.

A horse with an infected hoof crack will usually have strong digital pulse, heat in the hoof wall, may have a fever and/or swelling in the lower limb. Of course, the lameness may be totally unrelated to the crack. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will use physical exam and careful assessment of the hoof, the crack and the rest of the limb to determine the cause of the lameness. If they determine that there is an abscess, they will typically establish drainage by opening the crack.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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