How I Fixed My Horse’s Problem with His Cracked and Shelly Hooves
My horse’s hoof cracks and weak feet went from annoying to a full-blown problem.
I have had Buck for several years, and while he had always had the occasional split or chip in his hooves, it was never a serious problem and didn’t interfere with any of our riding or adventures together. That is until this year. Buck developed a severe crack in his right front foot, and he was clearly sore on it. There were signs of bleeding, but what had changed? He had never done this before. Upon further examination, I started noticing other more minor cracks in his hooves, not as severe as the one on his right front, but they were there. I had to find out why he was getting cracks, how to fix the problem, and how to prevent them in the future.
First, I researched the reasons why horses’ hooves crack.
What I found was disturbing. I discovered that horses’ hooves can crack for a multitude of reasons. Among them are traumatic injury, poorly balanced hooves, poor conformation, overgrown hooves, poor diet, or genetics. It seems that some horses are just genetically predisposed to cracks; they have weak feet, and some horses’ feet get weaker as they get older.
I also learned that different types of cracks appear in different parts of the hoof and can mean different things. Horizontal cracks, for instance, are always the result of an abscess and usually don’t cause any lameness issues, while vertical cracks are only a problem the higher they go up, or worse if they start at the coronet band and head down. Vertical cracks can also extend into the soft tissue of the hoof, allowing bacteria to enter and cause an infection. Toe cracks usually occur due to overgrown hooves or poor conformation. So, Buck’s quarter crack was nothing to take lightly; he was already lame, and I really didn’t want to deal with an infection.
I also learned that a horse’s hoof is made up of keratin, the same substance that makes up our fingernails. So, just like our fingernails, it is hard yet pliable. When the hoof can’t flex or loses elasticity, is when problems like quarter cracks develop.
With this knowledge, I set forth to solve this problem and win the battle against brittle and cracked hooves.
I came up with and followed a plan of action.
Well, Buck hadn’t been running on any particularly hard surfaces; he had always seen the farrier on a regular schedule, but he was getting older. This led me to believe that his age was playing a role in his hoof problems. So, I knew that even if I was successful in treating this crack, he was likely to get others in the future.
The first thing I did was call my farrier to make an appointment. The next thing I did was find out as much as I could about quarter cracks from anywhere I could: the internet, books, even the old guy at the end of the barn. What I learned is that the pain comes from the broken-off part (the heel) moving around, so the farrier would need to immobilize in some way and isolate it so Buck didn’t land on that heel and cause pain. There are a few ways this can be accomplished, as I found out. The first involved adding a bar shoe to add support and give the horse more surface to land on while isolating the cracked area. The second involves lacing the two sides of the crack together with wire or Kevlar cord. Buck’s crack wasn’t severe enough for the second option, but a bar shoe seemed like a good idea to protect him until the crack grew out.
Next, I turned my attention to why this happened in the first place. I decided adding a supplement to his feed with Biotin would be a good idea. Biotin helps a hoof grow because it contains sulfur, which is what keratin is made from. I found out that at least 20mg a day would be needed, and I searched for a product that met that requirement while also being palatable. I found several that fit the bill. The one that I settled on also contained minerals such as copper and zinc as well as amino acids and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, and I started him on it right away.
The next problem I discovered was that horses’ hooves grow slowly. I needed to do something that would increase the speed of growth while not compromising the quality of the new hoof I was growing. The faster his hoof grew out, the faster he would heal, and I could remove the bar shoes. I researched products and came across several that ranged from oils to iodine. The oils were supposed to aid hoof growth by making them moister. The iodine was supposed to aid foot growth by irritating the coronet band and making the hoof grow faster. Neither of these approaches seemed logical. When I was going to give up on anything topical, I discovered something different, a product called “Best Hoof.” This product promised faster growing, healthier hooves in a much different way by feeding the nutrients into the coronet band, the source of all hoof growth. It contained some very interesting ingredients such as biotin, collagen, Nutrilian Keratin, Hyaluronic acid, Hydrasensyl Glucan, and cica. Each of these ingredients did something to help the hoof grow or increase the quality of the hoof. Biotin is what the hoof is made of, so that was good. Nutrilian Keratin is a smaller molecule than normal keratin that allows it to penetrate deeper and repair damaged areas, so that was good. Hydrasensyl Glucan strengthens capillaries, which aids in blood flow to the hoof, so that was good. The hyaluronic acid and collagen help keep the coronet band in good shape, and the last ingredient, Cica, boosts the “microcirculation” of the coronet band, helping it absorb increased amounts of vitamins, nutrients, oxygen, and minerals. With all these attributes, I found a winner in “Best Hoof.” So, I started rubbing it into his coronet bands every day.
After the farrier came and did his thing, Buck started to feel and travel better. The biotin supplement and the “Best Hoof” now became part of his daily routine.
Buck became sound after he received his new shoes. The supplement and the “Best Hoof” treatment took a bit longer to start being noticed. It takes a horse roughly a year to grow a new hoof. Bucks hoof was growing a lot faster than normal. Within two months, the crack had grown down over half an inch, and the hoof that was growing in was much better looking. His new hoof was smoother and darker than the older hoof. Now that his hooves are healed, I’m going to continue to follow the treatment plan to make sure they don’t crack again.