Burney Chapman, a world-renowned farrier from Lubbock, Texas, became one of the foremost authorities on White Line Disease back in the late eighties and early nineties. At that time, he began to see an alarming increase in the numbers of white line cases he encountered in his shoeing practice both in the U.S. and U.K. Burney determined that it was not a disease of the white line, but rather the result of a fungal invasion of the middle hoof wall. Burney named the condition “Onychomycosis”, or ONC. The disease is also known as Stall Rot, Seedy Toe, Hollow Foot and Wall Thrush. At first blush almost everyone, including Burney, thought White Line Disease was found in environments that were poorly maintained. However, the more he encountered it, he began to realize the disease occurred more often in clean, well-managed stables and barns. He also observed that there was no correlation to breed, color, or front versus back feet; and that the initial stages were non-painful and usually detected by the farrier during routine hoof care.
Today, we know a bit more about White Line Disease and recognize that all horses are exposed. The medial (middle) hoof wall is the structure affected. The damage is caused by organisms commonly found in the environment, both bacterial and fungal. These organisms require a nutrient-rich environment that is lacking oxygen to flourish. The outer hoof wall is more resistant to invasion due to its higher density and exposure to environmental oxygen compared to the low density and lack of oxygen in the middle hoof wall. The third section of hoof wall, the inner hoof wall, is more resistant to invasion due to the proximity of live tissue in this area. The live tissue is not only oxygen rich, thereby inhibiting these opportunist anaerobic organisms, but also has infection fighting abilities.
Due to this, many horse owners approach White Line Disease as an external battle, but White Line Disease prevention begins with internally healthy hooves. For example, picture a castle protected by a strong exterior wall. If the people inside are healthy and thriving, the outside wall can be maintained and kept strong from outside invaders. If the castle is unable to maintain the wall, over time the outside wall will begin to deteriorate, weaken, and crumble; making it easier for outside invaders to penetrate. We can take this same example and apply it to our horse’s hooves. If we are not properly providing for the hoof internally, the outside integrity of the hoof will reflect the same. As the external protection begins to deteriorate, the hoof becomes less resilient to infections such as White Line Disease. Maintaining a healthy hoof internally begins with proper nutrition.
Proper nutrition and hoof quality are directly correlated. In fact, poor hoof quality is one of the first signs of poor nutrition. Developing a balanced diet and feeding a quality hoof supplement can provide the nutrients needed to support stronger and healthier hooves. It may also help promote regrowth and recovery for hooves suffering or damaged from white line disease.
Feeding your horse an unbalanced diet can have the reverse effect. For example, as mentioned in previous articles, excessive selenium supplementation and excessive bran in the horse’s diet are nutritional factors that can increase the risk of White Line Disease or other hoof related issues.
Although proper nutrition alone may not resolve White Line Disease, it is a vital step in building more resilient, stronger and healthier hooves. Protecting hooves externally utilizing a non-caustic topical product while also providing a quality hoof supplement is the most effective way to prevent and treat White Line Disease. Consult with your veterinarian and farrier if your horse is suffering from White Line Disease. If you have any questions, feel free to visit our website or contact us at 1-800-624-1873 or firstname.lastname@example.org.