Managing a Horse’s Underrun Heels
The long-toed, low-heeled hoof is a common and difficult-to-manage hoof abnormality
It can be a struggle to maintain our horse’s hooves so that they look the way we want, while also keeping them as healthy and sound as possible. We’re usually fighting against a genetic predisposition for problems, the local climate, the footing a horse has been raised on, poor hoof care at an early age, feet that have been previously shod inappropriately, excessive softening of the foot due to moisture, type of work, or problematic foot and limb conformation. And once hoof problems start, sometimes they can be challenging or impossible to fix. Such is the case with what is known as underrun heels, sometimes described as the long-toed, low-heeled hoof.
Stephen O’Grady, DVM, MRCVS, owner of Virginia Therapeutic Farriery, in Keswick, says underrun heels are one of the most important and common foot abnormalities the horse industry faces today. He was a professional farrier for 10 years before earning a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Pretoria, in South Africa, in 1981, and he now focuses solely on podiatry with his practice. He says any of the items listed above can cause underrun heels.
But both he and Tracy Turner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, Dipl. ACVSMR, of Anoka Equine Veterinary Hospital, in Elk River, Minnesota, shy away from using that “long-toed, low-heeled hoof” phrase
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