Questions & Answers on Hoof Wall Disease:
Look to the Basics

© Robert L. Peacock

published in ANVIL Magazine, April, 1996

I have been asking questions since the 1980's. The same basic answers keep coming back. My first article was printed in the FYI and distributed at the 1992 American Farriers Association Convention. People started to realize there was a hoof wall problem, not just a lame horse.

I pursued my findings by attending clinics and listening to farriers who were dealing with the problem. I also read articles on this subject. Some farriers used the "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" approach to fix it now. Most of them had little fact and a lot of fiction.

To separate fact from fiction, I sent out more than 500 questionnaires about hoof conditions and have received responses from Argentina, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Alaska and throughout the continental U.S. The results are amazing, and I would like to share them with you. The questions involved owners, trainers, veterinarians, farriers, stable managers and the horse.

The information you are about to read is fact and practical experience taken from the questionnaires. It contains comments and responses from owners, trainers, veterinarians, stable managers and farriers who answered the questionnaire. Also, where noted, I have given my comments. Included are comments from the 1994 Global Lameness Clinic, lecture and seminar on the subject of hoof wall disease at Vero Beach, Florida. The information here is direct in addressing the causes, not the symptoms, of yeast, unguilysis (canker), stable foot rot, onychomycosis and all other hoof wall terms given. The article will also expose management problems caused by over-love, such as overdosing a drug or overfeeding.


An ulceration.
A carbohydrate (sugar) forming the skeleton of most plant structures and plant cells.
A general term used to denote a group of eukaryotic organisms, including yeasts, molds, mushrooms, rusts and smuts, characterized by the absence of chlorophyll and by the presence of a cell wall.
An animal or plant that harbors or nourishes another organism.
A protein that is the principle component of skin, hair and nails.
Fungal disease of the fingernail
Any organism living on dead or decaying organic matter.
Stable foot rot
A condition occurring in horses stabled over the winter feeding period; hind feet are commonly involved and usually in the medial rather than the lateral region.


Normal immune responses are vital in protecting the host against invasion by foreign organisms, tissues and substances. Under certain circumstances, however, these usually protective responses can have a deleterious effect on the host; all such unfortunate responses are called allergies or hypersensitivities; autoimmunity is a special type of hypersensitivity, characterized by a specific immune response against the constituents of the body's own tissues. Several factors can contribute to the damage of the host's immune system. Below are some indicators, complemented with responses to the questionnaire:


Documented is a horse that was very hyperactive and hard to shoe on her front feet. With a history of white line problems, she had been resectioned and treated the conventional way, open to air and topical with merthiolate. The condition remained the same. The owner sent in a response with photos of the horse's front feet of poor quality and hair loss. The mare was fed sweet feed; I suggested that she change the diet from sweet feed to a mix without sugar and add a multi-supplement with 10 mg of iodine, vitamin A, selenium, zinc, choline, niacin, biotin, inositol and, most important, dl-methionine. The mare was on this diet for over 60 days. In 30 days, remarkable improvements appeared in her hair and feet. She remained on the multi-supplement until the white line problem was visually over. The owner or trainer chose to remove her from the supplement. In 30 days, the white line problem was back. They returned to the multi-supplement with 10 mg iodine and started using a new topical (made by the same company) in the nail holes and between the shoe and hoof. Everything is normal now. Most interesting, the mare is very easy to shoe now, requiring no tranquilizer or restraints. The hoof is supple and clean of infection.


Where are your horses housed?

Conclusion: Horses that live in stalls are prime targets for white line problems.

Do you use disinfectant?

Those who answered yes had few problems. Those who answered no to disinfectant had multiple problems with white line disease.

Do you open and air stalls?


What do you feed?

Of the 68 horses fed sweet feed, 54 horses had fungi problems.

Do you feed anything to promote hoof growth?

Do you feed supplements; how much, how often, what kind?


How much does your horse exercise?


The questionnaire again showed that if a horse had white line disease in one hoof, it was a balance- alignment problem. If it involved the two front feet, it could have been caused by stress, founder, excess toe, race shoe toe grab or imbalance. If it showed up in all four feet, it was an environmental or nutritional problem, or both.


Do you de-worm your horse?

How often do you de-worm your horse?

How do you de-worm your horse?

What type of drug?


Do you medicate for damaged hoof wall?

Do you use a commercial medication to cure white line problems?

Which medications were used?


Follow a nutrition, exercise and shoeing program that works for your horse, and follow your vet's advice. Read the label on any supplement that you choose for your horses. Do not rely on everyone else's advice or the most advertised product. Insist on a guaranteed analysis showing what your are paying for each day and the quantity of active ingredients per ounce. Example: The most popular supplement on the market today, recommended by some farriers, contains alfalfa for filler and in my opinion has less vitamins and minerals than other multi- supplements which have all the ingredients needed to produce a healthy hoof and healthy horse.

Nu-Foot was the first manufacturer to add 10 mg to 20 mg iodine to its supplement. It is designed to promote healthy hoof . For horses with weak hooves or hoof wall problems, the recommended dose is 30 mg for 21 days ($1.32 per day) and 20 mg for 21 days ($.88 per day). This level is recommended until infection is gone; then 1 oz or 10 mg ($.44 per day) is recommended for maintenance. This concentrate is also fortified with choline, niacin, biotin, inositol, dl-methionine, vitamin D3, vitamin E, zinc, selenium and vitamin A. These formulas were developed by Bob Peacock and Bill Clevenger of Vita Vet Labs, Inc.

Recently, an organic anti-bacterial and antifungal topical was developed to aid in the control of fungus, even under a patch repair. This formula, Fungidye, has been tested and found effective as a wound-healing agent and diagnostic tool. It is insoluble in water or urine. It will bond without creating food for fungi. It is most effective when used in combination with Nu-Foot.

Other recommendations include disinfecting stalls, no sweet feed, turning horses out and shoeing them only when necessary.


By asking the questions posed in the questionnaire for all the horses listed here, you will learn to analyze each horse's needs to combat and control hoof wall disease. For the benefit of the horse and the industry, send for a questionnaire or make your own. Start charting the horses and ask the questions. Make comparisons to other findings. For your sake and the horse's, take your time; don't expect fast results. Do not experiment, as the horse will pay for your mistakes. Listen to professionals. Follow recommended directions; do not overfeed any individual vitamin or additive. Most of all, if your horse's current regimen is working, do not change it at his expense.


Burney Chapman, farrier, Lubbock, Texas, technical consultant; lameness consultant; BS Animal Science, Texas Tech College.

Kary C. Davis, PhD, Sanitation for Horses and Mules. Livestock Enterprises, 1928, pp. 210-211.

Henry Heymering, CJF, On the Horse's Foot, Shoes and Shoeing.

The Merck Veterinary Manual, fifth edition.

The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 16th edition.

Printed articles by Robert L. Peacock in FYI, 1992.

Robert L. Peacock, reviewed by Burney Chapman, "A New Threat, Hoof Wall - Problems & Solutions," Anvil Magazine July, 1993.

James R. Rooney, DVM, Biomechanics of Lameness in Horses.

Prof. William Russell, Scientific Horseshoeing.

Dr. Richard Scher, Prof. of Clinical Dermatology, Columbia University; attending dermatologist, Presbyterian Hospital, New York, has published 182 medical papers on this subject.

Dr. Susan Sharp, director of Clinical Microbiology, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Miami Beach, Florida; assistant professor, Dept. Microbiology, University of Maine School of Medicine.

Information compiled at Conference on The Truth about Hoof Wall and Disease White Line Disease, November, 1994, Vero Beach, Florida.

Thanks for the use of the testimonies received from many, including John M. Arkley, farrier; Cissy McCabe, horse owner; R.E. Eppely, farrier and horse owner; Thomas S. Keegan, farrier; Abby G. Sloen, Gemstone Farm; and special thanks to Jon Cohen, DVM; Jim Keith, farrier; Henry Heymering, CJF; Fran Jurga, publisher, Hoofcare & Lameness; Bill Clevenger, VitaVet Labs, Inc.; Rob Edwards, publisher, Anvil Magazine.

All statements in this report are derived from the A.T.I.E.B.S., Inc. Data Bank, P.O. Box 154, Shandon, OH 45063. For copies of the questionnaire, write to the above address. ¨

Return to Veterinary/Technical Articles