The Relationship Between Hoof Deformation and Underrun Heels

Underrun heels can contribute to problems such as chronic heel pain, bruising, lameness, reduced performance, and more.

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The Relationship Between Hoof Deformation and Underrun Heels
Underrun heels can contribute to many problems, such as chronic heel pain, bruising, coffin joint pain, lameness, reduced performance, and more. | Photo: Alexandra Beckstett/The Horse

Horse owners, veterinarians, and farriers alike know that preventing hoof problems is better than having to fix them. But when a hoof problem, such as underrun heels, does develop, it’s important for your horse’s health care team to be up-to-date on the latest in research and treatment methods.

Peter Day, Dipl. WCF, farrier at the Royal Veterinary College, in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a series of studies looking at the relationship between hoof deformation (a shock-absorbing mechanism—the natural change in the hoof capsule’s shape every time it’s loaded with the horse’s weight) and underrun heels. They compared the degree of deformation in hooves with underrun heels versus without underrun heels as well as the effects of carbon composite hoof wall patches on underrun heels. Day presented his findings at the 2017 International Hoof-Care Summit, held Jan. 24-27 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Regardless of the term used—underrun heels; long-toe, low-heel; slung heels; or collapsed heels—it appears to occur more frequently in the front feet than the hind. For this reason, Day’s research focused on only the front hooves. He said he considers heels to be underrun or collapsed when the heel angle is lower than the toe angle by about five degrees

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Written by:

Sarah Evers Conrad has a bachelor’s of arts in journalism and equine science from Western Kentucky University. As a lifelong horse lover and equestrian, Conrad started her career at The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care magazine. She has also worked for the United States Equestrian Federation as the managing editor of Equestrian magazine and director of e-communications and served as content manager/travel writer for a Caribbean travel agency. When she isn’t freelancing, Conrad spends her free time enjoying her family, reading, practicing photography, traveling, crocheting, and being around animals in her Lexington, Kentucky, home.

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