White Line Disease

The cause of MOST hoof cracks and dry looking hooves.

One infection, many names. . . . .

Chances are you’ve heard of White Line Disease, or one of it’s many aliases: Seedy Toe, foot rot, stall rot, wall rot, stall foot, yeast infection. . . but what the heck is it?

     White line disease (WLD) is not a disease, and does not affect the white line, it is a combination of anaerobic bacteria and fungus that feed on the keratin that bonds the inner and outer hoof wall together.

     White line disease can affect any breed of horse and is the cause of many common hoof problems: flaky walls, chips, cracks, and hooves that won’t hold a shoe.

     WLD can ‘trick’ you into thinking your horse has dry hooves, when an infection is really to blame.

Notice this golden colored line- this is the actual “White Line” in the horses foot. The black separation you see is the infection- it does not affect the actual white line.  

  This pony gelding is standing on what is left of his foot. White line disease has eaten the wall away. Several other farriers have attempted wall resections, formaldehyde,so much bleach his hair turned orange and enough Koppertox to turn his hoof green. Nothing was working, and it was starting to get worse.

5 Year Old Pony Gelding

Severe Wall Loss from WLD

The lack of hoof wall makes this frog look giant. Notice how flat the foot is- this is the hoof trying to stabilize itself since there is no wall to help hold the structures safely in place.

No more toxic chemicals for this foot! We soaked him for 90 minutes in CleanTrax and followed this up with a pair of Equisocks to help stabilize the hoof. The hoof is growing out nicely.

Why bother with natural? I want the infection to die, who cares if it’s toxic- right?

I was asked this question once, and I think it’s a great point to bring up here. Why do we care what the medicine is made out of, as long as it kills the infection? Here are a few  reasons:

  • ALL hoof infections eat the hoof- that’s why they are there, so if you put a toxic chemical on the foot, the chemical will kill the infection, but it also kills the living tissue on the hoof. Have you ever touched bleach and noticed how your hands feel slimy? This ‘slime’ is NOT the bleach, but the layer of skin on your hands killed by the bleach-gross huh? The same thing happens to your horses foot, wether you use bleach, or any other medicine that contains any chemical that is not safe to touch with your hands. If it’s toxic to you, it is toxic to your horse and his hooves tissues- it kills the living tissue AND the organisms in his foot- but the bacteria that causes thrush and WLD live in the soil, so they will re infect the unhealthy hoof but also the tissues you just killed by the bleach, or other chemical.  If you can’t touch it with your hands- DO NOT put it on your horse!  

We are starting to get a much healthier hoof now- the sole is less flat and is exfoliating thanks to healthier hoof wall and daily hand walking in Hoof Rx Therapeutic Pads for 20 minutes a day. He is sprayed daily with Hoof Rx Spray and CleanTrax has been used once a month.

Finally, a normal hoof. With a horse with such a deep infection that has been going on for this long, I recommend a CleanTrax treatment at least once ever 6 months, and a daily treatment of Hoof Rx Spray to be safe.

Bad to the bone:

16 Year old walker mare with white line to the coffin bone!

White line disease can be deadly, if left untreated, it can climb up the hoof wall, and eventually find its way into the bone. This walker mare received excellent care from her owners, and regular farrier visits, but the white line went undiagnosed until it had infected the coffin bone. Here her hoof was resected in an attempt to cut away all the diseased tissue, but it wasn’t working.  

Here we have the typical long toe trim done by many gaited horse farriers, this is done to facilitate a longer more animated stride, but it is putting stress on this already compromised hoof. Notice how the wall bulges half way down. Taking a toe off that is this large is going to take a few trims.

The shoe was removed, treated with CleanTrax and Hoof Rx and a proper trim applied. BELOW: Equipack CS gel pad, and then added a 3 inch Equisock to help support the foot.

“Flat” unhealthy sole- typical for horses with poor wall quality.

Here is a picture of the left front foot, also affected b y WLD. Notice how it looks ‘dry’ and flaky? Hoof dressings would be the WORST thing to put on this foot. WLD is an anaerobic bacteria (needs a dark airless place to survive) so sealing in this hoof with hardeners or dressings would seal in the ‘crud’ making it worse. Always treat infection before applying Equisocks- even though the Equisocks are anti-microbial.

What is the WORST thing you can put on a hoof-especially one infected with white line disease? Hoof dressings!

  • The bacteria that makes up WLD is anaerobic- it needs an airless environment to survive. When you add hoof dressings or hardeners- even ‘medicated’ ones, you are sealing in the bacteria and even making it worse!
  • If you want to harden your hooves naturally, use Hoof Rx spray. Its ingredients are highly toxic to bacteria and fungus, but it is 100% Green, safe, and all natural, plus it hardens hooves naturally with citric acid.

Recognize this hoof? This is the left front foot AFTER  treatments of Hoof Rx and a CleanTrax soaking. All of the infection is gone, and we have a beautiful, normal hoof, in about 4 months. And she’s even sporting her new Ground Control Shoes!

Above: Right Front Hoof

Above we have the foot formally infected with WLD all grown out. She is wearing her modified Ground Control Shoes- these were cut back at the toe as well as shaved down into a wedge shape to help ease break-over- this is to help take any pressure off the coffin bone as it continues to heal. In the picture on the right,I used Equipack CS under the rear portion of the shoe to help support her heel.

Catching WLD early on is key to stopping it before it goes too far. Thankfully this mare had a wonderful support team from her vets to her dedicated owners. Everyone was able to work together to help her become sound and ride able again.

Before and After Gallery:

A before and after gallery of some common cases of WLD. Remember if  you horse has this, remove the shoe, trim the foot and treat it right away~ CleanTrax for deep infections and cracks- Hoof Rx for surface problems. If you have questions- don’t forget to contact me- I can help!

Above:This TB gelding had ‘typical TB feet, flaky, thin walls, sore over all terrain, including rocks. He was also very ‘grumpy’ when I trimmed his feet, not wanting to stand on them for long (and I don’t blame him! He also suffered from chronic abscesses. After a treatment with CleanTrax and a daily spray of hoof Rx- you can see the difference he shows here in six months worth of good trimming and care.

Above: Quarter Horse Mare with neglected feet and a bad WLD infection. Her foot was so unstable when I filed it, the whole wall shook and I was afraid she was going to loose the front of her hoof. I wrapped an Equisock over the top of a writing pen. I placed the pen just over the crack in the hoof, and then wrapped. After the Equisock was applied, I pulled the pen free- this gave an opening so the owners could treat the hoof with Hoof Rx spray while the hoof stayed stabilized.

20 Year Old QH Mare Suffering from severe hoof imbalance, founder and WLD. The owner sprayed her with Hoof Rx spray every day for 8 weeks- and the photo to the right is what I found at our next appointment! I have never seen such a dramatic improvement!

Above and Below: 12 YO Appaloosa Gelding, severe WLD infection. This horse differs so much from the walker mare with the WLD bone infection in environment and daily care. The mare was able to be treated daily and her feet kept dry in a stall. This horse has a wet pasture and no stall, making daily treatment difficult. Keeping the hoof dry is very important in treating WLD. He’s getting there but the results are slower and less dramatic.

End of the Line:

Curing your horse from White Line Disease:

  • WLD is NOT a disease but an infection of the inner and outer wall.
  • Do NOT put anything on your horses feet that is caustic or toxic- if you can’t touch it, don’t put it on your horses feet- it makes the infection worse.
  • WLD may look like flaky, chippy or ‘dry’ walls. DO NOT apply hoof dressings or conditioners- they seal it in and make it worse! Treat the hoof with CleanTrax hoof soak or Hoof Rx for surface cracks. Deep cracks can be stabilized with an Equisock after treatment.
  • Shoes make the problem worse- nail holes introduce bacteria and weaken hoof wall. Apply an Equisock first, and then nail the shoe to the sock- this protects your hoof wall, and keeps nails out of your horses feet!
  • Do NOT allow your farrier to put epoxy or hoof filler in the cracks- this seals in the infection and makes it worse!!!!
  • Removing some of the dead material is okay, but do not allow your farrier to remove major portions of the hoof wall- only under vet recommendation and supervision should this ever be done! (I soak in Clean Trax and let the foot grow out myself. .. . )
  • Have questions? Do you think your horse has WLD? If you don’t think your horses feet look good, you’re probably right- e-mail me the problem hoof on a clean uncluttered background- floor level of the side, front and sole(just like the photo’s above)  to drhoof@live.com for free consultations!

Case Studies