Correcting Crushed Heels (Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium)

Working to correct low heels when they begin to develop is far more successful than waiting until the horse has had no heel for a long time. Low-heeled conformation is not healthy and can compromise soundness in the short or long term.

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We’ve all seen them, and many of us have owned them–those horses with no heels to speak of. We know that "strong" heels are important for soundness, but what can we do to rebuild those crushed, underrun heels? At the 2007 Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium, Richard Mansmann, VMD, PhD, clinical professor and director of the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Equine Podiatry and Rehabilitation Service, discussed the various causes of crushed heels, how to avoid them, and how to treat them.

"We see a lot of chronically lame horses trying to work with long-toe, low-heel conformation," he began. "It’s a very common foot conformational problem. The lower the hoof angle, the more stress is placed on the posterior part of the hoof and limb (ideal hoof angles range around 54° in front feet and 58° behind, he noted).

"Affected horses usually have a broken-back hoof-pastern axis and a zero or negative sole plane angle (often called the palmar/plantar angle–the angle the wings of the coffin bone make with the ground; this angle should be positive 5-10° with the rear of the bone higher than the front)," he went on. "They probably also have breakover too far forward (i.e., the forwardmost point of ground contact between the shoe/hoof and the ground is too far in front of the tip of the coffin bone)."

Not Just a Cosmetic Problem
"These horses have a serious, chronic problem that will take long-term, conscientious monitoring and treatment to maximize soundness," stated Mansmann. "The longer the problem has existed, the greater the overall damage to internal and external structures. If the problem is fairly new, you might be able to return to normal (healthy) foot conformation, but you may not be able to re-establish decent posterior digital cushion very quickly

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Written by:

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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