The hoof of a horse is the foundation of its health. Knowing how to keep a horse’s hooves properly cared for is vital and will keep them healthy and sound. There are diseases and problems that can occur even if the horse is healthy so it is necessary to know what to look for and what to do if signs develop. Thrush is an infection of the frog of the hoof and is most obvious in the grooves on either side of the frog and also in the central section. Two ways to know if the horse has thrush is sight and smell. There is a black discharge with thrush on and around the frog and it has a strong and unpleasant smell.


To treat thrush there are commercial products available. Working with a veterinarian is strongly recommended or with a farrier to make sure treatment is applied correctly and to prevent it from returning.


Thrush thrives in wet areas. Clean stalls help to prevent them from developing thrush as well as daily cleaning of the hooves. A horse that has developed thrush will suffer from a burning and stinging sensation and will look for a way to soothe it. If in a pasture the horse will look for mud to pack its hoof to find relief and if confined in a stall will try to use wet hay. These solutions will only create a perfect environment for the thrush to intensify. Don’t clean the hoof with water as it only adds more moisture which thrush thrives on; contact a veterinarian for the proper treatment.


Quarter Crack 

A quarter crack is a split in the horse’s hoof that runs vertically and occurs in the side of the hoof. These cracks will appear between the widest part of the hoof and the heel. These cracks if allowed to become severe can cause a horse to go lame.


Depending on how severe the crack is determines the treatment. A minor crack can be treated with increased maintenance paying attention to balance. A serious crack may require the horse to be stabilized. Veterinarian advice should be attained to determine the severity so that proper treatment is applied.

Race horses that develop quarter crack may show a decrease in their athletic ability as this crack will cause the horse to be unable to tolerate forces in the plantar part of the foot. While any lineage, breed or sex can develop quarter crack; race horses have a higher incidence of developing it.


Hoof Bruise

A hoof bruise can look like any other type of bruise and is usually a result of a blunt trauma which causes hemorrhaging. It is often visible as a discolored patch on the sole or hoof wall. Hoof bruise can also result from concussive exercise or improper shoeing or trimming. Depending on how severe the bruise is a horse may be sensitive or even lame.

The best treatment for a bruise is rest and providing some additional protection or cushioning through shoes, pads, boots or wraps. Checking with a veterinarian to make sure it is a bruise and not something more serious is recommended.


Hoof Abscess

Hoof abscess is an infection inside of the horse’s hoof and will cause the horse to suddenly and severely go lame. In some horses in may appear as though the lameness comes and goes. The hoof abscess will first begin with a buildup of infection and inflammation causing the white blood cells to expand. The hoof of a horse cannot expand so it causes increased pressure. The fastest way to relieve the abscess is to open it and allow it to drain.

A vet or farrier will need to drain the abscess through the sole of the hoof. The hoof abscess can often be resolved quickly and easily when a veterinarian performs treatment right away. The hoof will need to be cleaned to find the entry wound, establish the drainage and soften the hoof capsule through foot soaks and poultice. The vet will also want to provide medication and antibiotics to fight against infections. The understanding of how important the horse’s hoof is and taking proper care of it is vital to a horse as without it the horse cannot live. Having a proper schedule to check the hoof is essential to detecting any diseases or problems early so treatment to care for them can be administered early. Early treatment will provide the best outcome to keep the horse healthy and sound.