Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Abnormally Deep Cleft Between Heel Bulbs, Deep Central Groove of Frog

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

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

    This problem often occurs in horses with high, contracted heels and is a common feature in club feet. It is usually indicative of an underlying lameness-related problem rather than a cause of lameness. Thrush tends to develop in the grooves and worsens the problem by penetrating deep into the tissues.

    The key to managing this problem is diagnosing and managing the underlying lameness issues. In extreme cases and where the deep cleft penetrates into sensitive tissues resulting in pain, treatment of thrush may be needed.


    Assess the horse for lameness at the walk and trot. Feel for digital pulse and heat in the feet. Press on the area above the cleft with your thumbs, assessing for pain response and comparing it to the response from the other side.

    In horses with pink skin here, look for reddening of the skin above the cleft. Compare the conformation of this side to the normal side. What do you notice?

    Most importantly, keep the debris picked out of the cleft. It’s important to keep the crack open to the air to the extent possible, using a hoof knife to remove extraneous tissue.


    Discuss this problem with your vet and farrier, who may suggest that you send them a photo for discussion.

    Your vet will probably start by evaluating your horse for lameness, and seek to identify and treat any underlying problems.

    To treat the thrush that often dwells within these cracks, your vet or farrier may trim off excessive frog and sole to allow air to reach the tissues.

    What Not To Do

    Do not assume that this is the primary cause of your horse's lameness. In most cases it is a sign of underlying disease, not the cause.

    Do not use of harsh chemicals to treat thrush. The best way to treat thrush is removal of dead tissue and treatment of underlying disorders.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


    We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.