Hoof Wall Separations and Quarter Cracks

Farrier Ian McKinlay, who received some notoriety in 2008 for his work patching Big Brown's feet, discussed his experiences with patching wall separations and quarter cracks so high-performance horses can go on with their work at the 2008 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) convention, held Dec. 6-10 in San Diego, Calif.

"Today we have lots of new adhesives that throw the door wide open for ways to change what we're doing to hooves so they can handle what we're throwing at them," he began. "Today about 90% of my clients are Thoroughbred racehorses, and they have the worst feet (of any breed) I run across. It pushes us to solve lots of problems."

What causes these structural failures? Old scars at the coronary band, genetically weak feet, too much sole pressure, poor hoof balance, and/or lots of trauma to poor-quality hooves can contribute to abscesses that cause pain and undermine foot integrity. Once a crack ruptures, McKinlay noted that many people like to "float"/"de-weight"/"unload" the cracked area (cut out the shoe or shorten the wall to keep that part of the wall from bearing weight), but "it tears these things (walls) to shreds," he said. When the horse puts his foot down, it allows the loose wall space to flex and open up the crack even more.

He went on to discuss principles of lacing and patching quarter cracks, starting with cleaning up the crack using a rotary tool and drying any exposed soft tissue with Thrush Buster/alcohol (more information on the procedure).

"A lot of the cases I work on could easily heal if left alone," he commented. "My job is to create an environment that will assist healing and speed it along so the horse can race."

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About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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