Types of Hoof Cracks- Causes and Treatment

Cracked hooves in horses are a common problem affecting almost every other horse. You need not worry until the superficial damage of cracks reaches the core! In actuality, you should be an aware horse keeper knowing all the good and bad about types and treatment of hoof cracks in horses. Several factors like irregular hoof trimming schedule, environmental stress, and Nutritional factors are to look after for preventing and treating hoof cracks.
We have gathered all the basic to expert information you need about hoof crack causes and treatment in horses to promote a healthy hoof life for your riding partner.

Types of Hoof Crack in Horses

As discussed earlier, hoof cracks appear due to various reasons. All the trials developed in a hoof show a specific pattern that is categorically unique, thus giving us a hint of cause. It is essential to assign a category to cracks for better treatment.

Below listed are different kinds of hoof cracks a horse owner can commonly find in his horse:-

1) Grass Cracks

These cracks appear as a thin line crack confined to the superficial surface of the hoof (does not penetrate deep within the wall). The damage route can be traced from the ground shooting upwards or vertically from the toe's distal border towards the coronary band. 
Reasons that may cause grass crack includes ground conditions (from highly wet to dry conditions), lack of exercise leading to the poor blood supply to the hoof, inadequate nutritional feeding, White line disease, and seedy toe.

2) Sand Cracks

Sand crack resembles grass crack except for the proceeding direction, which is the opposite. In sand cracks, the damage originates from the coronary band area and runs towards the distal border or toe, running towards the ground. Sand cracks are also called fractures of the hoof wall.

These may appear due to lameness or uneven weight distribution on the hoof capsule. The horse's working surface and shoe type are contributing factors, along with those listed in the grass crack.

3) Quarter Cracks

These cracks originate from the quarter of the hoof and progress distally; sometimes pushing their limits, they may also cause heel cracks through overreaching. Management of these cracks is the most difficult compared to other hoof cracks.

Quarter cracks are most common among all hoof cracks, are often associated with lameness, and are very painful for horses.

Conformational anomalies play a significant role in the production of quarter cracks; Coffin bone defects, fractures, and keratomas also are some factors that cause quarter cracks.

4) Heel Cracks

These very painful cracks often form due to improper shoeing, particularly 'short-shoeing' in which the heel of the shoe does not entirely cover the heel of the foot, leading to cracking of the heel. Uneven weight distribution and overreach of quarter cracks also add to the cause.

5) Toe Cracks

Usually, in cases of heel pain, horses tend to land on their toes and put more of their weight on the toes; this causes cracking of the toe (region of the hoof). Toe cracks result from persistent chronic laminitis, and 'landing on toes' inflicts concussions adding to laminitis. As severe as it gets, these cracks can permanently misalign the hoof capsule and bone column.

6) Bar Cracks

Cracks that occupy either side of the frog (a white triangular soft part of the hoof) deep sited in the inner folds of it. Bar cracks are mainly caused due to any mechanical injury happening due to Stepping on complex, sharp objects. Traumatized or crooked or folded bars are more prone to cracking.

How to Determine Cracked Hoof Status?

You don't need a magnifying glass to confirm your horse's hoof has started developing slits in between or even splitting into two or more segments.

One expert can determine and categorize hoof cracks by closely examining their cause. It is essential to determine the cause of the occurrence of hoof crack, to begin with, the treatment.

What Causes Hoof Cracks in Horses?

Anatomical structure and rigid protein components make the hoof bear massive force while exercising or riding.

Some factors may affect the hoof walls by exerting extra pressure leading to hoof cracks. These factors include:-

● Environmental conditions- One of the most common causes is the change in ground texture due to extreme weather conditions ranging from very muddy to dry weather. 
● Improper or periodic trimming of the hoof- Proper, timely hoof trimming is the demand of every horse breed.
● Poor shoeing- Only an expert farrier should be allowed to fit the horseshoe correctly to the horse to avoid injuries and deformities of the hoof due to improper shoeing.
● Unbalanced diet and ill nutrition- Poor nutrition is an essential cause of splitting or crackling of the hoof.
● Genetic and structural determinants- Bad genetics affect the whole descended herd.

How to Treat Different Types of Hoof Cracks in Horses?

Determination of the exact cause and treatment of the hoof cracks should be done by an authorized veterinarian only.

But as a horse owner, you must be concerned and know the ways of treatment of hoof cracks in horses as described below -

  • The preliminary examination includes making the horse walk or trot. The veterinarian checks for any imbalance or irregular walking pattern; a horse with big hoof cracks might fall. Based on the examination, the expert would suggest changing the footing material or exercise pattern to improve the hoof condition.
  • Inspection of the environment of the stable (where the horse resides) and the riding ground is a must. Check the bedding conditions; uneven or too hard might be inappropriate regarding moisture content, like wet or dry is undesirable.
  • If a resultant wound is due to chronic cracks, the veterinarian provides the horse with first aid in case of bleeding and pain. Firstly, determining the cause of the hoof crack would help frame the effective treatment line.
  • A horse's diet also plays a significant role; an essential amino acids and vitamins deficient diet make a horse more prone to hoof cracks and other diseases. Therefore, the first step includes identifying and making appropriate lifestyle and management changes.
  • After looking after the managemental setup and diagnosing the issue, the veterinarian would turn to stabilize the weight distribution of horses evenly, reducing other adversity and recurrence of hoof cracks. For stabilizing, a veterinarian might go for trimming the hoof. Sometimes, a hoof crack is mild and can be solved by just trimming the hoof. If not, corrective shoeing procedures, applying implants, and adding clips on the sides of the crack are prescribed.
  • Measures such as lacing-cleaning and resecting (cutting off parts of the hoof wall) the crack, further drilling holes into sides aided with stainless steel wire, and joining of wire's ends together tightly are also performed to stabilize the hoof crack. A better alternative to this is connecting a wire to a screw instead of connecting wires alone.
  • Filling an uninfected hoof crack (free from bacteria or other infections) with fiberglass paired with 'hoof patching glue' (polymer and acrylic patching materials) is also a way to treat the hoof cracks in horses. If treated this way, infected damage may increase the problem by several folds.

    To seek a farrier or a veterinarian to examine and treat hoof crack is necessary. A farrier is trained by their experience, but sometimes even they might lack the expertise in treatment. In such conditions consulting a veterinarian is of utmost importance. After treatment, one should inform the veterinarian immediately if the horse encounters lameness or imbalanced walking patterns.


Q1. How do you fix dry, cracked hooves?

Ans. Hoof conditioners containing phospholipids as crucial components can be applied to moisturize hooves properly. These conditioners additionally have antimicrobial properties, which greatly help reduce the chances of infective hoof problems.

Q2. Do cracked hooves hurt?

Ans. Yes, a cracked hoof, especially heel and quarter cracks, hurt the most. Severe damage opens a window for induction which is a potential threat to a horse's health and can be deadly in some cases.

Q3. What do you feed a horse with cracked hooves?

Ans. Since hooves are primarily made of keratin (a protein), a Protein rich diet is highly recommended in conditions of hoof crack. Protein not only repairs the hoof tissues but also helps them with growth. Legume-based meals such as alfalfa and soybean meal serve as good protein sources.

Q4. Will a cracked hoof heal?

Ans. A cracked hoof shall heal, but the time taken to do so is debatable. A crack in the coronary band area takes as long as a year to heal, but generally, the more downward the gap (on the hoof surface) is, the less time it takes to heal.

Cracks on hoof walls are pretty prominent in every other horse. Based on the position and causative agents, these 'hoof cracks' are classified as grass, sand, quarter, and heel cracks. These cracks can be very painful to the horse (as pain is prominent in the case of quarter cracks) and, if not treated in time, may have deadly consequences.

Horse owners should be aware of the changes in the hoof structure and related signs and are concerned about resolving the issue. A routine visit with a farrier or trained veterinarian shall be at the top of the list of preventive measures. Weekly or monthly general hoof examinations must be completed.

Cracks in a horse's hoof can be prevented and treated in the early stages. So, be responsible for your riding star hoof and keep the crackling away.


Dr Akanksha Agnihotri is another animal lover like you cum veterinarian by profession. She has earned her B.V.Sc & AH from COVS & AH, Jabalpur, India. She has a knack for befriending animals/pets and treating them compassionately. She believes...