Ask HQ: My horse is starting to develop cracks in his hooves. What can be done about this?
Cracks can develop for a number of reasons: e.g. when there is excessive hoof growth and flares in the wall; when you have been riding over very rough terrain; during hot and dry conditions; if the ground is particularly hard; and if your horse has a poor diet or is systemically unwell.
However, sometimes a crack can just develop from your horse having a little too much fun in the paddock, and in this case there is usually very little worry about. If you’ve been on a long hack and have noticed that your horse’s hooves are starting to chip, this is also not a cause for immediate panic. However, both of these signs could indicate that your horse has generally weak hooves so it is worth discussing this with your farrier.
In terms of managing cracks the first step is to phone your farrier. Severe cracks are usually a sign of a deeper internal problem, and may need the attention of a nutritionist or vet. However, your farrier will be able to advise you as to who best to consult next. If the crack is severe or risks getting larger, the farrier may opt to fill the crack. In milder cases they may advise the regular application of a bit of hoof dressing to provide moisture to the hoof, especially if your horse is living in a dry environment. Applying hoof dressing will keep the hoof conditioned, so it won’t necessarily heal cracks but should reduce the risk of them getting any bigger.