What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


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


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.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

your role


What To Do

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.

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.

your vet's role

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.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Do you notice any lameness?
  • Do all four feet look similar to you?
  • Is this a hoof with a steep hoof wall and high heel?
  • How often are you picking out your horse's feet?
  • Is there digital pulse or heat in foot or feet?
  • What is the status of your horse's hoof care and shoeing?
  • Do you work with a farrier that you trust and can communicate with?
  • Can you send a photo?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP