Here in Florida, I see horse after horse whose bars have not been trimmed at all, some for years. Unfortunately, this horse was in so much pain the first time I saw him that I could barely trim him, much less get photos.
Many speed and sport horses are plagued with quarter cracks, crushed heels and soft tissue injuries that are all too often chalked up as bad luck and seldom receive the respect they deserve. The first sign of digital cushion and heel tubule demise is a decreasing palmar angle (PA). When shod with a flat shoe, the PA with the ground surface is the same as it would be if the horse were barefoot. Evidence from venograms of healthy shod feet suggests that most horses require a minimum sole depth of 15-18mm to adequately protect the sensitive structures of the foot.
Many horses and vets disagree with my recommended sole depth dimension as they see a lot of top horses with very thin soles.
Much like the club foot we do not have means to cure the low heel, crushed cushion foot, but we do have options that can greatly enhance the health of the foot and help prevent the ill effects that cause all sorts of lameness issues in sport and speed horses. Depending on the degree and chronicity of the crushed damage, several options are available for the horse that is out of training. When healthy foot mass has been re-established, most horses can go back into slow work wearing the rocker rail. Frogs that extend well below the heels can be used as load zones as long as the frog is dry and tough.
Horses that can be turned out for free exercise while training have far better quality feet and horn growth rate than horses that are stabled for 23 hours a day. The success of this approach to laminitis hinges on trimming the feet OFTEN (ideally 2x weekly), keeping the horse on firm, non-concussive ground during the recovery period when he is barefoot, and using removable boots when working him on hard or rocky ground to prevent stone bruises--until enough sole and hoof wall thickness builds up, and enough stronger new laminae grow down to return the coffin bone to a more normal position.
Section 3  The orthodox approach (lots of drugs, stall confinement, high heels, heartbar shoes) vs. Section 13  Founder as a man-made disease that naturally living wild horses are free of. Full-sized photo version of Section 20  New illustrations added showing how I use a 30 degree triangle and heel height to determine where it's safe to trim! She is also looking for someone to live on her ranch, and take care of her horses when she is out of town giving clinics. A great program for veterinarians and horse owners who are interested in the best of Equine Hoofcare theory, but not interested in the trade of trimming or our EHP 9 month certificate program.
The club foot does not have to be a high grade, as a horse with a low grade 2 club can have a very noticeable low heel on the opposite foot with a thin digital cushion and zero to negative PA.


The hind foot will have a slight bulge along the dorsal face and the growth ring pattern will be much wider at the toe than at the heel. Radiographic information is vital to managing horses with crushed digital cushions and a negative PA. Genetics and conformation play a role in the demise of the heel, otherwise it would be quite easy to fix these cases and keep them fixed. Horses with low scale crushing respond nicely to a 4 point trim, hot sear and a few days protection before going barefoot. Therefore, if a horse can back out of fast work for a few weeks and use a higher mechanical shoe, a 12-15° PA rocker rail would be my choice. I put a positive frog pressure bar in shoes for rehab horses, but never speed horses unless the foot is well along in the recovery process. This is a very important step as excessive pressure to the buttresses and heel can cause a painful response if the heel is allowed to push heavily into the tender area.
This experience proved to her that it is possible to straighten out an older horse's conformation, too. It is often thought that a lower PA is caused by farriers removing too much heel, but this is not so in most cases as the heel can also come off from within the foot, not just from the outside. Wedge shoes, wedge pads, rocker shoes and heel elevation shoes create a different PA than what we find in the bare foot.
When a horse with a healthy toe-heel growth ratio is standing with the hind cannon bone perpendicular to the ground, a line drawn along the coronary band slope will strike the front leg at the knee or below. To develop an eye for what is happening inside the foot we must study the radiographic image and develop a working knowledge of how it correlates with external landmarks to offer key information concerning imbalance and the cascading series of events that occur as the heel goes into the crushed mode. Shod feet with a consistent growth pattern heel to toe and medial to lateral that maintain 7-10mm of new horn growth every 30-45 days will have a cupped sole of 15+mm in depth and a slightly positive PA. The foot may require mechanical aids to enhance perfusion for several months depending on the response, chronicity and age of the horse. As crushing begins to collapse the digital cushion, the heel tubules are subjected to excessive load. Many speed horses typically have 5-8mm of total sole depth with zero to negative PA and little or no signs of new growth month after month.
This is not a rocker toe shoe; the belly is a smooth radius from toe to heel with the peak of the belly slightly behind the widest point of the foot on the low heel and slightly in front of the widest point on the club or steeper foot.
When the wall is rolled under and the shoe is resting on the outside of the wall, the angle of the foot (between the bars and heel tubules) is under tremendous load and is deprived of adequate circulation, putting it in shutdown mode. Training the horse to stand for the farrier is management's responsibility, not the farrier's, as it requires daily reinforcement training, which is vital for any and all optimum foot programs.


This produces good balance but minimal mass and often results in thin walls and soles, weak bars and heel tubules. The horses actually enjoy the massage it gives them although a few (about 5%) need to get used to the idea. When the shoe is removed, the foot side will have deep creases in the heel area in the same place that folded heel tubules sit on the shoe.
As soon as sole is 15+mm, PA has improved and the horse is moving great, most trainers and owners want to go back to the flat shoe. This can quickly put a foot into crushed heel mode, even before a horse goes into rigorous training.
Once the cycle has started it can proceed very quickly, especially when horses are training at top speeds.
Other horses that are highly competitive with 10mm or less sole do not have a healthy vascular supply.
I prefer to pull a horse out of training for 2-3 shoeing periods in order to gain optimum foot mass over the shortest period of time. Therefore breakover slowly moves forward, which can start heel crushing very early in life. The horse actually walks on the outside of his wall instead of the end horn tubules, further crushing the tissue in the heel area. The significance of this finding is relative to the incidence of medial quarter bruising, heel pain, slower than normal horn growth and subsequent quarter cracks that often plague speed and sport horses.
Simply eliminating daily concussion to the heavily compromised heel and buttresses starts the natural healing process. The horse that has significant medial listing seldom has adequate foot mass and most often has a crushed digital cushion that produces a negative PA that can be quite severe. Once the digital cushion has been crushed and the heel tubules have folded under the heel there will always be a tendency for the foot to revert to this state given good reason. This is the depth that the horse should have immediately post shoeing, not 4-6 weeks post shoeing.



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Comments to «Treating heel pain in horses»

  1. AURELIUS writes:
    Best remedy strategy, as each flat foot requirements the American Podiatric.
  2. Lerka writes:
    Believe the ball of the foot has a connection moderate sprains.