What is Quarter Crack?
While racehorses are more susceptible to getting a quarter crack, any horse can end up with this condition. The main cause of quarter cracks is thought to be too much force to the hoof wall and the tissues of the coronary band. Some horses have hereditary defects that weaken the hoof walls or cause an uneven stance, leading to cracks. Horses with nutritional deficiencies are also susceptible to quarter cracks in hooves, as are horses kept in conditions that are too wet or too dry. You should check your horse’s hooves daily for wear and tear, loose nails, improper balance, and other issues that may cause a crack. Put your horse on stall rest right away until you can obtain an evaluation by the equine veterinarian if you see a quarter crack in one of the hooves.
A quarter crack is a vertical break or fracture in the hoof of a horse between the heel and the widest part of the hoof. This type of condition is not uncommon, especially with horses that race or do a lot of heavy work. These cracks can run deep and cause bleeding and become infected if not treated right away. The worst type of quarter crack is the type that starts at the base of the hairline, and that are created by too much pressure in a weak area of your horse’s hoof. These can be caused by many things such as injury, thinning hoof walls, unbalanced shoe, and dry hooves.
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Symptoms of Quarter Crack in Horses
The symptoms of quarter cracks in horses vary depending on how severe the crack is. However, some of the most commonly reported signs include:
- Sudden lameness
- Visible crack in the hoof between the heel and the toe
- Blood on the hoof
- Sheared heel
- Signs of recent injury
- Grass cracks start at the bottom of the hoof where it touches the ground
- Sand cracks start at the coronary band of the hoof
- Incomplete cracks do not reach the end of the hoof
- Complete cracks go from top to bottom of the hoof
Causes of Quarter Crack in Horses
- Imbalanced hoof (improper shoeing)
- Hereditary (defects; some horses are more susceptible)
- Improper feeding (lack of Selenium, Amino acids, and Biotin)
- Weather or housing (Too dry or too wet)
- Excessive hoof growth (waiting too long to see the farrier)
Diagnosis of Quarter Crack in Horses
Contact an equine veterinarian as soon as you can if you suspect a quarter crack. Waiting to see if it will get better can create bigger problems as cracks do not resolve on their own. If the crack gets infected, it can cause permanent lameness and may even be fatal if it does not get treated soon enough. The veterinarian will first need to know your horse’s complete medical history, growth problems, immunizations, abnormal behaviors, and what symptoms you have seen. Also, the veterinarian will want to know what feed you use and how much your horse eats, changes in appetite or diet, what bedding you are using, the kind of work your horse does, and what kind of ground your horse uses most often. You should mention any recent injuries or illnesses and if you have given your horse any medication.
A comprehensive physical examination should be done, including body temperature, height, weight, reflexes, blood pressure, breath sounds, respiration and heart rates, palpation, and body condition score. You will need to walk and trot your horse so the veterinarian can assess the muscles and joints during movement and check for hidden signs of early lameness. In addition, a hoof tester (large metal pincers) will be used to put pressure on certain areas of the hoof in order to determine the level of pain, if any.
If the veterinarian cannot find any reason for the quarter crack, blood and urine tests will be performed to check for nutritional deficiencies or underlying disease. Some of the tests that may be done are a complete blood count (CBC), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), chemical profile, alanine aminotransferase (ALT), packed cell volume (PCV), creatinine, urea, total globulin, albumin, protein, and glucose. Also, the veterinarian will take some x-rays and ultrasound to see what is going on inside the hoof. An MRI or CT scan may be performed as well.
Treatment of Quarter Crack in Horses
It is essential to find the cause of the quarter crack before repairing so that it does not happen again. There are different treatments depending on the cause of the quarter crack.
If the cause is a vitamin deficiency, the veterinarian will give oral supplements after repairing the crack.
The most important step is to debride the crack and clean it with antiseptic and iodine or betadine.
The veterinarian will clean and trim the foot, if needed, to balance the surface of the hoof. Sometimes the veterinarian will rasp away the cracked area down to where the crack stops depending on the depth and severity.
The veterinarian may shod the hoof with an egg bar shoe or another similar kind of supportive shoe. The contact area where the crack is located is floated (trimmed back).
Some veterinarians like to affix clips to the hoof to hold the capsule together and give extra support to the new horn being produced.
Another choice is to fill the crack with resin or acrylic and a tube to let the area drain while it heals.
Recovery of Quarter Crack in Horses
No matter which treatment is done for the quarter crack on your horse, keeping it clean and dry is extremely important. After the repair, the veterinarian will clean it again and then bandage the whole hoof. You may have to change the bandage several times a day, depending on the area where you keep your horse. You also need to keep your horse on stall rest for a month or two. Your veterinarian will give you specific instructions to follow.