For repair, horses usually are divided into two categories — those that have to perform immediately, and those that can have
a short layoff.
"If we have a short layoff, we will usually trim the foot appropriately and put a bar shoe on them, solid all the way around,"
O'Grady explains. The bar stops the vertical movement of the two heels, so you stabilize the back part of the foot. If done
appropriately, the foot will begin to heal immediately. In a month's a time, you'll have a quarter to three-eighths of new
growth above the quarter crack.
"If the horse has to work right away, to perform in a rodeo or run in the Kentucky Derby, then we will go ahead and repair
the crack. Repair involves using an implant, to 'stitch' it, putting some hairpin wires across the crack opening from either
side, and repairing it. Once that's in place, the finishing is patching over the defect with an adhesive bond."
Most Thoroughbreds have a thin hoof wall, with little sole, thus fragile feet, says O'Grady. "If there's a quarter crack,
it is usually behind the widest part of the foot, behind the area where you're going to nail. If you use a nail-on shoe, you
could actually lower that side a little bit more, leave a little space under there, i.e., float it, allowing the heel to be
'out in space.'
"In a Thoroughbred that is going to run in light aluminum shoes, a shoe with a polyurethane insert might be best for cushioning.
We glue them on.
"If you have a jumper or hunter, a horse with a heavy foot, barrel-racing horse, I would rather have a steel shoe on that
horse," O'Grady says, "because it has more ground surface and stability, and if I'm going to use a steel shoe I'd much rather
nail it on."
Ultimately, the experts agree, it's critical to deal with each horse as an individual that requires individual attention,
likely differing in each case, each conformation, each purpose for which the horse is used.
Big Brown's hoof crack
About 10 days prior to the Belmont Stakes, during treatment for some inflammation, the quarter crack in Big Brown's hoof was
observed. The horse had two previous quarter-crack incidents in 2007, and the last patch made the previous winter was still
good; there had been substantial growth.
On Monday before the Belmont race, hoof specialist Ian McKinlay stitched the crack closed, and says that by Friday the tissue
was perfect. The old suture was removed and replaced, and the crack was covered with methyl-acrylic adhesive.
The team added a glue-on Yasha shoe, a simple shoe with a dual-duro- meter rim pad adhered to an existing shoe. The pads absorb
shock and keep the hard shoe off the sole.
By Belmont Stakes day, the procedure had gone well, with no sign of infection.
Big Brown didn't win the last leg of the Triple Crown but, according to McKinlay, the hoof crack was not responsible.
Kane is a Seattle author, researcher and consultant in animal nutrition, physiology and veterinary medicine, with a background
in horses, pets and livestock.