Some surface cracks can be caused when hooves absorb moisture, dry out, and then go through this moist - dry cycling over a period of time.
Hoof supplements that contain the amino acid methionine and the B vitamin biotin may help build better horn quality, and prevent cracks from forming.
Hoof dressings may help seal the outer surface of a hoof, and help prevent moisture absorption and loss.
In the natural state of a wild horse's hoof, the periople of the hoof, located just below the coronary band, secretes a natural protective coating that protects the hoof from changes in moisture content.
In a shod horse, the farrier may sand and rasp off this natural coating leaving the hoof vulnerable to changes in moisture.
If you think they are more then minor surface cracks, having your vet out to take a look may give you peace of mind.
As I understand it, the hoof wall is supported from the coffin bone that lies behind it, so having a crack in the front of the hoof will generally be the least problematic location for a crack to form due to the direct support of the coffin bone behind that area.
However, should a crack form in the side walls of the hoof (quarter crack), there is a chance that the hind portion of the hoof wall may separate and cause lameness because there is less support from the coffin bone in that area.
But I am nether a vet or a farrier.
Last edited by alterhorse; Jan. 29, 2011 at 02:42 AM.
I have a mare that will develop front center hoof cracks on her front feet if she is not well balanced and the toe is allowed to get longish. She has great feet all around and has been barefoot her whole life (coming 15). She has done everything from trail riding to jumping to competitive dressage. I would make sure the trimmer/farrier understands both the length and balance aspects of this particular horse's foot. It took a change of farrier to get a handle on my mare's feet.
Look carefully at the hoof wall from the bottom of the foot where the crack is on the surface. It is usually not hard to see a crack that has traveled through the wall, either partially or fully. IMO, any crack needs to be dealt with to minimize the effect it has on the rest of the foot.
At only 2 1/2, getting it "right" now will have a profound effect on the rest of his/her useful life.
I had a big WB mare that had this problem. She was never lame from it (and I owned her for her entire life).
I had farriers that tried all kinds of things to fix it and nothing worked. Looking back, I think there must have been some kind of hoof imbalance.
What changed for your horse about 5 months ago or so? it appears that he had an attack of laminitis then (rings on hoof wall) and I am assuming *something* changed? Both photos are of the same hoof so don't know whether right or left front. The rings define the laminitis but if you saw no clinical signs then the horse just had a bout with the developmental stage and recuperated on his own. The hoofwall appears smooth in the top 1/2 of the hoof to coronary indicating that whatever issue was the case about 5 months ago or so, is now gone/fixed/cured ...
The crack is a superficial one -- won't affect his soundness BUT -- it is due to imbalances of the hoof and extreme wet to dry conditions usually. A good 45* bevel of the hoof wall all round will help but also need to balance the hooves. Imbalances, in themselves, cause other issues than just cracks in the wall.
Diet may have alot to play in this, as well. But not always.
Can't tell much from the solar shot except that the right side of the hoof shown in photo is longer walled than the left. So that needs to be remediated. The overall shape is really nice -- nice and round. Wish we could have seen the whole hoof, tho, from solar view.
Whats the solar view? (side?) She was trimmed this past Friday. I updated the photos showing the other side.
I promise I'll get better pictures on concrete. I took quick photos with the cell phone just to have something to post. lol
As far as what changed... hmmm... Sept. or there abouts.... Early Sept was when my other mare got salmonella/founder and ended up at UGA for 3 weeks. This one never got salmonella or laminitis. Due to the salmonella in the other mare, we were watching this mare VERY closely to so it didn't slip past us; she never was sore and her feet never heated up. She DID cut her mouth very badly and was on antibiotics for over a month about the same time the other mare was stall bound. Other than that nothing that I know of. But that's probably what happened. It was a VERY bad cut/infection in her mouth.
After seeing what the other one went through, the number of vet visits for the other one and this one during her mouth ordeal, believe me, between myself, the vets, and the farrier someone would have noticed. We were all being soooo over the top cautious due to the salmonella, there is absolutely NO WAY it would have been missed. THE first thing everyone dis upon entering the stall was to go straight to the feet several times a day.
And now that the other horse is growing out, omg, what a difference between true laminitis feet and this one.
Any rings on hooves indicate a bout with laminitis. There are 4 stages to laminitis with the 1st one being the Developmental stage which goes totally unnoticed because there are no presenting clinical symptoms. If the horse recovers himself before going into Stage 2 Acute Laminitis then no one will ever know until rings on the hoof appear a month or so later. The rings are result of inflammed laminae (lamin-itis) stretching out and then not regaining their original shape/state therefore the hoofwall grows down with the rings. Most horses go through Laminitis and the owners are never even aware of it until the rings appear. That speaks well to the health of your horse - strong and able to recover well. A domestic horse goes through many stressors daily and the stress affects the hooves without discrimination. A change in feed, a change in paddocks, weather barometric changes, change in bedding, anything can be a stress to the horse that will cause a bit of laminitis -- growth rings, fever rings, feed rings, ... they're all simply evident of a go-round of developmental laminitis that was arrested somehow.
Your other horse was not able to arrest the advancing of the attack onto stage 2 Acute Laminitis. There's the difference. That's when the clinical symptoms develop ... Acute Laminitis = bounding pulse, lameness of varying degrees, heat, etc.
I've never had a horse on pasture that didn't have growth rings but I'd never call it laminitis. This mare was never sore and there was never a pulse or heat at all.. If the farrier thought she had laminitis at any point in her life, he'd have mentioned it. He's vocal that way. Lol. There isn't any bruising either. For a horse to rotate, you're talking major damage with obvious soreness and bruising. The farrier said he doesn't know why she has the cracks. She's had them for a while actually and aren't new as of sept last year. But I can't remember when they started. I'm getting tired of them being thre which is why I posted. It's time they leave. Lol
I'm with Back in the Saddle - rings are not always indicative of laminitis. Having nursed a horse through four-footed acute laminitis with rotation in all 4 plus sinking and sole penetration in front, I've seen quite a lot of changes in feet. Rings appear for many and varied reasons, both benign and malignant. My barefoot horses grow them out every year as weather/pasture/moisture changes occur. They have also appeared as a result of minor as well as more significant illness or stresses. I've seen them in horses that change diet, move to new locations, get new supplements or transition into or out of shoes. Like growth rings in trees, they are reflective of conditions that the animal experienced at a point in time. If there is any doubt at all about the animal's internal foot status, an x-ray can tell a great deal. From the pictures that the OP posted so far, these look like otherwise healthy feet. I maintain the first consideration needs to be a balanced trim and monitoring the frequency of trimming to keep the foot healthy and intact. The 5-8 week trim cycle may not be frequent enough for a young, actively growing horse whose feet are unshod.
I'm not seeing laminitis either. My pony has the laminitis ring right now from a bout of it back in the summer and I just dont see it on these pictures.
My older mare gets cracks on her hooves similar to your during the winter. My farrier tells me they are superficial and will go away when we get out of this wet-dry-wet cycle we are in right now with the weather. I have used hoof supplements on her with some success but not total.
Stress Rings don't always indicate that a horse had a full blown episode of laminitis.
That's exactly correct. The key words here are "full blown episode" meaning ACUTE STAGE of Laminitis.
A couple of definitions:
"A developmental phase, during which lamellar separation is triggered, precedes the appearance of the foot pain of laminitis. This may be as short as 8 -12 h in the case of laminitis caused by exposure to the water soluble toxins of black walnut (Juglans nigra) heartwood shavings (Galey et al 1991) or 30 - 40 h in the case of excessive ingestion of high starch grain. During the developmental phase and prior to the clinical appearance of foot pain the horse or pony usually experiences a problem with one or more of the following organ systems: gastrointestinal, respiratory, reproductive, renal, endocrine, musculoskeletal, integumentary and immune. Multi-systemic aberrations in organs anatomically remote from the foot result in the lamellar tissues of the feet being exposed to factors which lead to separation and disorganisation of lamellar anatomy. The exact nature of the laminitis trigger factors, apparently reaching the lamellar tissues via the circulation, has yet to be elucidated. " --Christopher C. Pollitt, BVSc, PhD.
Simply defined, laminitis is inflammation of the sensitive laminae in the hoof of the horse, caused by stressful events, trauma, infection, or parturition. -Paul Proctor MRCVS
The developmental stage can remediate itself within 48 hours if horse is in good health and its system can handle the mitigating insult where no further development of the insult takes place. The 'clinical signs' will not be apparent until some hoof growth has taken place and the rings become evident. While Pollit only states 3 causes there are many causes of stress in the hooves -- anything that stresses the horse will affect the hooves in some manner. The degree to which the horse can handle the stress is individual to the horse itself.
ACUTE Laminitis :
"The acute stage begins with the onset of pain and lameness, typically with in 24-48 hours, and lasts until the pain and lameness subsides and the horse recovers or displacement (rotation, sinking or both) of PIII occurs. Horses in the acute phase generally but NOT always exhibit common signs such as, elevated digital pulse, warm hooves and painful response at the toe to palpation and/or hoof testers. Loss of appetite, limited intake of fluids and the typical laminitic stance are also commonly observed signs. In this phase the inflammatory process is at its climax and blood supply to the digit may be severely compromised. This hypoperfusion within the digit may lead to ischemia, necrosis, and oedema compromising the integrity of the laminae. Aggressive treatment during the acute phase generally provides a more favourable outcome and may preserve the integrity of the laminae." -Paul Proctor MRCVS
Horses hooves are supposed to be smooth and tough -- no ridges, rings, etc. Rings indicate *something* has gone on or is going on.
To the OP -- you mentioned changes within the time frame I asked. Those changes caused stress to the system which ended up down in the hooves. It's that simple. Again, your care and the horse, herself, must be in good condition otherwise the changes *could* have turned into full-blown acute laminitis.
Maybe the above will help explain the process a bit easier. I don't worry about rings on the hooves unless they are apparent right up to the coronary then I know something is presently going on that is disturbing the health overall of the horse and hoof. But if rings appear a couple of inches or so below the coronary but is smooth from the top ring up to the coronary where the new growth is occuring then it doesn't alarm me in the least. Just lets me know that my client's horse went through some sort of change that affected his physical reaction/functioning in some manner. That's all.
I agree with "Caballus"....you can easily see on horses' feet where things have changed in their lives....it doesn't have to be acute laminitis...just a change of feed, a move to a new location, a mild infection of some kind (esp if there was even a mild fever for a short time...ie, hours). The horse won't necessarily be sore footed...most won't in fact. I can see on my entire herd where we moved from a corral situation to "pasture" even though their feed remained the same...just the move and the changes in their situation showed up on every foot in the herd. No one was sore (in fact, they were more mobile and appeared to be happier with their world on the new location). "Stress" doesn't have to be negative...positive changes are also stressful...ie....changes to better feed or a better situation are just as stressful as being ill or injured.
Regarding the center of the foot cracks....I've seen these in horses that weren't balanced...ie....one side of the foot was longer than the other and landed first putting lateral pressure on the foot rather than landing flat....and were long toed. You can see a slight indentation of the hoof wall at these cracks...without x-rays you can't see if this indicates any separation of the laminae at the front of the coffin bone or not but it may well be that there is some slight separation due to pressure from unbalanced landing/loading AND long toes. A "mustang roll" on the edges of the hoof will help this a bit (breakover is slightly faster) and leveling the foot so that one side isn't longer than the other will take the lateral pressure off the hoof as well. I've had several mares that showed up with this late in pregnancy...harder to trim at that point due to their weight, longer toes with more pressure due to weight AND spring time softer ground. A good balanced trim and mustang rolls seemed to do the trick and the cracks as well as the dips in the hoof wall itself grew out. The wet/dry/wet cycle also contributes to make the hoof more flexible so more vulnerable to these pressures.