Friday, January 21, 2011

Hoof Problems and Rehab

Horse Hoof Problems, fungus, and treatments


This website caught my attention, as I currently have one boarder who was diagonsed with white line disease, and I'm worried that it may be what one of my horses was afflicted with last summer that I believed to be a recurring abcess.  The website is

Fungal Complications

Fungi don’t usually bother healthy hooves, but let them get established in a wall crack and they can eat their way upward faster than the horse can grow healthy hoof down. This effect should be suspected any time a crack acts “stubborn” about growing out. When I suspect this, I put my customers on an anti-fungal soaking program. No topical solution well help at all. You just have to soak, or you'll be looking at those same cracks in ten years. The best products in my opinion are White Lightning and Clean Trax; both available through farrier supply houses. (Anna's comment: much cheaper, with the same results is Oxine concentrate mixed with citric acid crystals... both can be purchased from Amazon)

I can’t help mentioning though, that I usually use Lysol Concentrate mixed to 2 ounces per gallon. I shouldn’t mention it because it is inconsistent with the labeling, but I’ve used it on a thousand horses and have never seen or heard of a negative effect. (If you use 2.1 ounces per gallon you’re on your own, but I’ll stand behind the 2 ounces per gallon as being much safer than most commercial thrush remedies! And more effective.) (not saying much actually) In truth, I think the reason it is so effective is that its cheap enough that people will actually repeat it over and over, rather than the "one or two chances" they'll typically give a more expensive product. It makes a soapy water that kills fungus, yeast and bacteria without harming living tissue or drying out the skin or hooves. Elegantly simple and it works. I typically have my customers use soaking boots to soak the hooves 3 times a week for 30 minutes. I use it for wall cracks, white line disease and thrush.

Additionally, when you see horses with multiple superficial cracks all over the hoof wall, fungus is usually the culprit. It is important to realize this because many people mistake this for dry feet and put oil on the hooves. This seals the fungi into a dark, wet, anaerobic environment and maximizes their “horse-eating” capabilities. Constant changes from wet to dry contribute to this, so drying up the environment is the best cure. If I can open the superficial cracks without excessively thinning the wall, I often will.

Also, there is an important dietary consideration here as well. If a horse is missing something, he’ll provide it to the more vital organs first, the skin gets the leftovers. So any dietary problem will make a horse’s hoof horn weaker and more susceptible to this kind of attack.

Coronary Scarring

Occasionally, a crack will go so high it splits and damages the coronet. Also, an impact trauma or severe cut can damage the coronet. Either way, this can lead to scar tissue and a permanent weakness or gap in the hoof wall growth. This is usually just a cosmetic flaw. It doesn’t hurt a thing, except it can create an entry point for fungus, which can then eat a larger crack and spread the damage to a large area.
When I see this occurring I usually put the owner on a “once a week forever” anti-fungal soak to keep the infection from getting re-established.

Lamellar Damage

A very similar story can happen to the dermal and/or epidermal laminae as well. An old wall crack can damage the laminae, a benign tumor can disrupt growth, a deformity or an adaptive change in the coffin bone can leave a gap in the laminae. The natural crena or cleft at the center of the coffin bone is over exaggerated in some horses; most commonly it seems in draft stock. This can also leave a gap in the laminae (If you see a horse with multiple, dead-center toe cracks you can count on this one; look for the tell tale ‘divot’ in the sole, mirroring the ‘notched’ shape of the coffin bone.
The end result to all these (and more) is that sometimes there is a missing laminae or two on some horses; a little hole in the "white line". Like the coronary scarring, it is usually not a big deal except that it can be another entry point for fungus, which often spreads the damage to the other laminae and the hoof wall. Again, in these cases I usually use an anti-fungal soaking routine to help me grow out the cracks and separation, and then put the customer on a “once a week forever” anti-fungal soak to keep the problem from coming back. This is a good idea when any permanent ‘hole’ is present.

That is all the ammo I need and I very rarely have trouble growing out a wall crack. I hope this helps your horses.

6 months with the front left foot on a long-term hard case with just about everything in this article going on at once.

At the setup trim in October, severe flaring/wall separation was present. The deep hole warns about fungal complications and a need for soaking. Coronary scarring is present from a time in the past when the crack made it to the coronet. You can see the rippled and separated walls, plus the presence of lamellar wedge in front of the true sole; suggesting dietary problems.

As usual with center toe cracks, you see the 'divot' in the sole mirroring a deep crena or cleft in P3. This has been an entry point for infection, and the primary reason these cracks persisted for so many years, through several different farriers. Most likely if the owner stops her weekly anti-fungal soak the deep, infected holes and accompanying cracks will return. (sorry I added that as a personal note to her ;-)

And finally by May, the cracks are all but gone. The coronary scarring/weakness will always be present, but proper management can keep it from being a problem for the horse.

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