Quartered heels come in many different variations, and always seem to happen to your best horse.
Necessity is the mother of invention when attempting to repair these. I have never found any two the same but the basic principles of repair are always similar.
The old method was usually to make a shoe which stayed away from the area of hoof which was affected by the injury. Because the broken wall behind the injury was not able to take any weight bearing pressure, the injury hopefully would then grow out.
This method is seldom successful, it takes too long and the horse’s work has to be altered because of the lack of hoof stability and lameness.
Trial and experiment over the years together with the use of a bit of modern technology has proven there are some more positive ways to achieve a better result.
Basically there are two reasons for any kind of cracks occurring in the hoof wall; the first one is because the hoof wall has been allowed to develop flares or wings anywhere from the toe to the heel – this causes stress to that part of the hoof capsule and the result is a crack which begins to form from the bottom up. Left unattended, the crack begins to open even further and can creep right up to the coronary band, causing lameness.
Treatment of this first kind of quarter crack should be to immediately trim the hoof wall back to an even shape and thereby get rid of any flares to reduce the hoof wall pressure in front of and behind the cracked area. Do not put a file cut across the top of the crack as this only serves to weaken the hoof wall even further as it grows down. It may also need the support of a triple-clipped shoe (Pic 1) to aid the stability of the hoof while the crack grows out.
The second type of quarter crack is the one caused from injury to the coronary band, with the most serious being back near the heels (Pic 2), because the new growth line at the coronary band has been scarred permanently; as it grows down it separates, so this needs to be treated by paring away the affected area and reinforcing it with synthetic material then backed up by using a side clip in front of and behind the cracked area (Pic 3). These cracks will never grow out completely but with good management you can maintain perfect soundness in this hoof. In extremely bad cases sometimes the whole heel quarter has been torn away – these injuries take ages to heal and when they do there is usually no heel regrowth.
In the past it was normal practice to bridge the gap using a bar shoe, however now with the use of modern synthetic products such as Bond-N-Flex it is possible to rebuild a new complete heel quarter successfully, then to use a triple-clipped bar shoe to achieve maximum stability to the hoof. Note also the importance of the single clip on the inside of this shoe; it helps to stabilise the weakened outside hoof wall. Because this shoe eliminates any movement in the hoof wall, the crack has every chance to grow out and sometimes a new heel will even grow again, and you can eventually go back to using a normal shoe.
This triple clipped shoe is made from a standard factory shoe heated in a forge or using an oxy torch; the clip is then drawn out of the hot metal using the edge of the hammer over the square edge of the anvil or similar. These clips can be put anywhere on the shoe to suit any hoof problem.
It is important to remember that this method of side-clipping a shoe to stop any movement back at the heels should only be used until the injury has grown out then it is important to revert to using a normal shoe; continued use of any method which restricts normal heel expansion will be likely to eventually cause contracted heels.