What are Quarter Cracks?
Quarter cracks are a break in the hoof wall that can develop anywhere along the quarter of the foot. They can be superficial or deep. Quarter cracks that penetrate the entire depth of the hoof capsule reaching the soft underlying tissue are associated with lameness. Consequences of quarter cracks include:
- Inflammation in the soft tissue
- Hoof instability resulting in lameness
Various Causes of Quarter Cracks
Quarter cracks have a variety of causes, including:
- Improperly balanced shoeing or trimming
- Genetic hoof defects
- Foot malformations
- Infection of soft tissue
The horse‚Äôs foot is an elastic structure and is capable of expanding and contracting; when a horse‚Äôs foot hits the ground the foot expands, when the foot is not on the ground the hoof wall contracts. A normal hoof that is well balanced is designed to absorb these forces without causing any damage to the structure of the foot. Anything that alters the normal shape and structure of the hoof wall can contribute to the development of quarter cracks.
Improperly Balanced Shoeing or Trimming
Feet that are not properly balanced cause an uneven foot fall pattern, adding excessive stress to portions of the hoof wall. Over time, this uneven distribution of weight results in abnormal forces as the foot makes contact with the ground, which contributes to quarter cracks
Repairing Quarter Cracks
The cause of quarter cracks must be determined before repairing the crack successfully. Once the cause is addressed, repair begins with stabilizing the quarter crack. By stabilizing the crack, horses can go back to work pain-free.
Stabilizing the crack involves removal of dead or infected tissue, use of a bar shoe to prevent the foot from expanding and immobilization of the crack using material to bridge the crack and prevent it from expanding. Examples of materials used to stabilize the crack include metal wire or plates, synthetic mesh materials and acrylic to fill in the crack once any infected or dead tissue is removed. Corrective trimming to limit the weight bearing surface of the area associated with the crack can also be effective in treating cracks.The crack will migrate towards the ground if it is properly stabilized and will eventually disappear once it reaches the ground. Improperly stabilized cracks will persist or become larger. Once the crack has been stabilized, most horses return to work pain free. Like many other diseases, quarter cracks can re-occur and proper foot maintenance is essential after it has resolved.