Proper care of a horse's hooves is crucial to the health of the horse. Hooves are well-suited to carrying the weight that they must bear as well as withstand the impact of a galloping horse. As well-made as they are, they are still susceptible to a number of ailments and problems.
Hoof cracks can occur when a horse repeatedly runs on very hard surfaces, such as concrete and pavement, as well as be the result of improper shoeing, extreme weather conditions and overwork. Hoof cracks can turn into a chronic problem in the afflicted hooves.
Thrush is a bacterial infection that is common in wet conditions. It is easily recognizable by a distinctive rotting smell. Regular cleaning and treatment with a commercial product will usually get rid of the infection.
Laminitis is a disease that affects the laminae. It can have a number of different causes, symptoms and treatments, and not all symptoms are immediately visible to the naked eye. Some symptoms include warmth in the hoof, walking gingerly and abnormal sweating. Causes can be anything from an improperly balanced diet to allergic reactions. Complications include separation of the hoof wall from the rest of the foot, founder and bone penetration through the foot.
Quiltor is the result of an injury to the leg above the hoof, where foreign matter gets into the leg and collects beneath the hoof. In order to remove this matter, it is often necessary to cut away parts of the hoof.
Navicular disease settles into the navicular bone in the foot of the horse, and can take shape as an inflammation of the tissue around the bone or a degeneration of the bone itself. Causes include improper trimming or no trimming at all, a bad conformation, obesity, improper shoeing and hard work on hard surfaces over a long period of time. Signs include the horse trying to avoid putting pressure on the heels of the foot. There are treatments that vary by horse and condition, but it is largely believed that the condition is not reversible.
Overly dry hooves are just as bad as hooves that are kept constantly wet. Dry hooves can be susceptible to cracking and chipping.
Abscesses can be a source of pain for the horse, often resulting from a bruise on the soft part of the foot or even a puncture. When cleaning out the horse's feet--something best done daily--it's important to make sure that there are no visible signs of such an injury.