Common Horse Hoof Problems

Updated December 13, 2022
A horse with one shod hoof and one with hoof cracks.

“No hoof, no horse.” It’s such a simple statement, but it holds so much truth.

Your horse’s hooves provide the foundation for everything you two do together, so it’s important to know the horse hoof care that will keep them healthy and sound. But sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Some common horse hoof problems and hoof diseases can happen to the healthiest feet, so it’s important to know what to watch out for, and what to do in case a problem arises.

Thrush

Thrush in the sulci grooves of a horses hoof

How to Identify Thrush in Horses Hooves

Thrush is a common infection of the frog of the hoof and is usually most evident in the sulci (grooves) on either side of the frog and in the central section.  There are two main ways you’ll notice your horse may have thrush – sight and smell. Thrush causes black discharge to occur on and around the frog, and the discharge is accompanied by a strong, unpleasant odor.

How to Treat Thrush in Horses

There are many commercially available products to treat thrush, but you should work closely with your veterinarian and farrier to treat it and keep it from coming back. Learn more by reading this in-depth article on thrush in horses.

Video on Thrush Signs and Remedies

Watch this video where farrier and SmartPak's Hoof Health Consultant Danvers Child, CJF explains thrush in horses.

Quarter Cracks

Cracks on a horses hoof

What is a Quarter Crack in Horses Hooves?

A quarter crack is a vertical split that occurs in the side (quarter) of the hoof. These cracks usually occur between the widest part of the hoof and the heel. Depending on the severity of the crack, the horse may or may not be lame.

How to Treat Quarter Cracks in Horses

Treatment varies according to the crack’s severity. Minor cracks may be resolved with increased maintenance and attention to balance, while serious separations may require stabilization with screws or wires. As a result, you should always work with your vet and hoof care professional to determine severity and treatment. Keep reading by visiting this article on quarter cracks in hooves.

Video on Hoof Cracks in Horses

In this video, Danvers explains everything you ever wanted to know about cracks in horse hooves.

Hoof Bruise

Bruising mark in the hoof wall.

How to Tell if Your Horse has a Bruised Hoof

A hoof bruise is similar to any other type of bruise – a hemorrhage within tissues usually caused by blunt trauma that is often visible as discolored patches on the sole or hoof wall. Bruises can have a variety of causes, from acute trauma to concussive exercise to improper trimming/shoeing. Depending on the severity, a horse with a hoof bruise may be sensitive or even lame.

How to Treat a Bruised Hoof

Like many other types of bruises, often the only treatment is rest, and possibly providing additional protection and cushioning through the use of shoes, pads, boots, or wraps. However, more serious problems can often be mistaken for simple bruises, so it’s important to work with your vet and farrier to evaluate your horse and set up a treatment plan.

Video on Horse Hoof Bruises

Watch as Danvers talks about the many different causes of hoof bruises, where they can be located in the feet, and how to manage them to keep your horse comfortable.

Hoof Abscess

Hoof abscess on the sole of the foot.

How to Know When Your Horse has a Hoof Abscess

A hoof abscess is an infection inside the hoof. Horses suffering from an abscess will often be suddenly and severely lame, and some horses may have lameness that seems to “come and go.”

Treating a Hoof Abscess

Some vets and farriers prefer to drain the abscess through the sole of the hoof, but every abscess (and every horse) is unique, so it’s best to involve your vet and farrier immediately. Learn more by reading this article on hoof abscesses in horses, or check out this horse owner’s question answered on hoof abscesses and white line disease in our Ask the Vet blog.

Video on Horse Hoof Abscesses

In this video, Danvers helps you understand everything about hoof abscesses, from their signs to treatment.

White Line Disease

What is White Line Disease in Horses?

White line disease is an infection of the white line (the junction of the hoof wall and sole), causing a progressive separation of the layers of the hoof wall. This separation can lead to structural unsoundness and lameness.

White Line Disease Treatment in Horses

Treatment options depend on the disease’s severity, so it’s important to work closely with your vet and farrier. Go in-depth on white line disease in horses by reading this article.

Video on White Line Disease in Horses

Watch this video where Danvers explains white line disease with visuals and diagrams of the hoof.

Laminitis and Founder

What is Laminitis in Horses?

Laminitis is an inflammation of the sensitive laminae of the hoof. In severe cases, the horse may founder, which is when the coffin bone rotates or sinks inside the horse’s hoof. Signs of laminitis include lameness, reluctance to bear weight, and warm feet with a strong pulse, among others.

Treatment for Laminitis or Founder in Horses

Acute laminitis is a medical emergency, and you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Managing a horse with laminitis is complex, and requires a close working relationship with both your vet and farrier. Learn more about the signs and treatment for laminitis in horses, as well as supplements that may lend support for healthy hooves.

Video on the Anatomy of Laminitis in Horses

Here, Danvers provides an overview of laminitis and explains why you shouldn’t wait to call your vet or hoof care professional if you suspect your horse is experiencing a laminitic episode.

Navicular Syndrome

What is Navicular Syndrome in Horses?

The term “navicular syndrome” or podotrochlosis is broadly used to describe any type of caudal heel pain in the hoof. Horses suffering from navicular pain will often exhibit lameness, especially under certain conditions such as working in tight, small circles or on hard surfaces.

Treatments for Navicular Syndrome in Horses

Because the term “navicular syndrome” is so widely used, the treatment options are vast and varied. Working with your vet and hoof care professional is essential to understanding the root cause and deciding on a plan of action. Keep learning about navicular disease in horses in this article with in-depth information on diagnosing navicular, treatment, and management suggestions.

Video on Navicular Problems in Horses

In this video, Danvers explains how you can help support your horse with navicular problems through corrective shoeing and proper management.


SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian regarding specific questions about your horse's health. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, and is purely educational.