Jenny Parsons from Wild At Hoof Barefoot Rehab gives us her views on Deep Central Sulcus issues:

A Deep Central Sulcus Crack

I would like to open your eyes today to central sulcus infections. Mainly because I feel this is a seriously overlooked but extremely common painful pathology.

Many horses seem to suffer for years without anyone noticing that there is an issue, often vets complete lameness workups, vettings and x-rays without noticing.

It starts with bacteria and fungus taking up residence in the foot, eating their way in to the frog. Generally healthy frogs can regenerate faster than these bacteria can damage it … but where frog health is compromised, especially with a contracted frog with a deep sulcus, it can quickly turn into a very serious condition.

Visually central sulcus infections can be hard to spot if you don’t know what you are looking for as the infection is inside the frog.
Typically central sulcus infections are more common in contracted feet and the first visual sign is a crack between the heel bulbs. However they can exist in appealingly normal looking frogs. When you pick out the central sulcus you may discover you lose your hoof pick into a deep crevice. There will be heat in the heel bulbs and frog. And pain in the back of the foot, they may not want you to handle the leg, pick out round the frog, or weight the other leg. Horses may visibly change the way they stand or move to avoid weighting the heels. 

Central sulcus cracks are often clearly visible from the back of the foot.

Deep Central Sulcus infection can often be seen on x-rays as can debris that have been forced deep into the crack.             

Central sulcus infections are very painful and anything that causes pain will change the way the horse moves or holds themselves. This will impact on every aspect of their lives. Tensions can settle in the necks and behind the shoulder blades leading to back pain. They will also avoid landing heel first which will impact on hoof function. Some may stand toe in. Both of which will usually lead to more contraction in the heels. Some horses seem to be able to function ‘well’ even with this deep infection but long term internal effects and welfare need to be considered due to the damage to other structures such as the digital cushion. It also appears that shod horses function ‘well’ with this issue due to their frogs generally not being weight bearing and also their heels being prevented from moving independently due to the shoe.

As an owner you know what your horses feet look like. You may have noticed a change either visually or I the way the horse has moved. But may not know what you are looking for. You may have bought a horse with this issues already … so that’s ‘just what their feet are like’. You may have asked a professional (hoof care or veterinarian) if anything was wrong but been told everything was ok but still not been convinced.

Hoof care providers should be telling you if your horse has a problem. One of 2 things can happen … the first is they notice a problem but say nothing. The second is that they don’t notice the problem. I’m not entirely sure which is worst! Unfortunately as many feel it’s

DSC visible from x rays as dark areas at rear of the frog. Light areas between the heel and the back of the lateral cartilage are foreign bodies stuck in the sulcus crack.

the horse owners responsibility for maintenance between trims or shoeing they don’t discuss how to improve on hoof or frog health.

I tend to advise owners to look at lots of different feet, both shod and barefoot and get start understanding what a healthy foot look likes.    Talk to your hoof care provider and your vet with regards to your horses hoof health and direction with regards to improvement. If their suggestions don’t seem to equate your own knowledge of hooves and your horse don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.   

Thankfully central sulcus infections respond very well to topical antibacterial applications. I personally have seen very deep central sulcus infections grow out in as little as 7weeks just using Red Horse Hoof-Stuff. However sometimes it can help addressing diet and environmental conditions.

Hoof-Stuff packed into a Deep Central Sulcus crack.