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Cracks can occur in the hoof walls and can originate from either the hoof or the coronary band. Ones that orginate from the base of the hoof are called grass cracks whilst those that originate from the coronary band are called sand cracks. They can be either partial cracks extending only part of the length of the hoof wall or complete cracks extending the entire length of the hoof wall such as those depicted.
Grass cracks are more common and are usually caused by overgrown hoof walls or unbalanced feet. Sand cracks however occur due to an injury to the coronary band or as a result of abnormal stress at the coronary band caused by unbalanced feet.
Hoof wall cracks are obvious to the naked eye but may also cause lameness. Grass cracks seldom cause lameness unless the underlying tissue develops a secondary infection or if they extend to the coronary band. Sand cracks will almost always cause lameness however as they involve the coronary band.
Regular attention from a competent farrier will ensure that your horse's feet are in optimal condition. Specific supplements are also available which can aid in hoof health, advice on the best one for your horse can be obtained form your veterinary surgeon. It is important that veterinary advice is sought with all lamenesses so that a precise diagnosis can be made as early as possible and an appropriate course of treatment undertaken.