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Heel Concussion Can Pound a Hoof

Although heel concussion is a normal part of every stride, serious problems can arise when the foot is out of balance and the load takes an internal toll

Don’t think of heel concussion as a problem; it’s a part of the normal footfall as a hoof moves through its stride. But excessive heel concussion is a different matter — with the sneaky potential to get lost amid concerns about navicular syndrome and other causes of palmar pain.

Asked about excessive heel concussion, equine veterinarian Tracy Turner says, “In some of the cases I’ve seen, the horses are sore enough that they almost act like they have a fracture. The bars and the heels and the laminae in the area become so inflamed that it becomes incredibly painful for the horse.”

If not caught early and remedied, pain from excessive heel concussion can change the biomechanics of the foot. Turner, a member of the International Equine Veterinarians Hall Of Fame who practices in Elk River, Minn., says the horse starts loading the foot differently, which can damage the navicular region over time.

From a medical standpoint, heel concussion is not a problem until it creates bruising or damage to the laminae or other, deeper structures. “Once it becomes painful, the horse will respond to the pain. Clinically, you will see signs very similar to any other type of palmar foot pain such as navicular syndrome. That will be caused by the horse landing on his toe to get away from the pain,” Turner says.

Common At The Track

Excessive heel concussion is particularly common in racehorses, due to the speed of their stride and the often-hard tracks on which…

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Ron Perszewski

Ron Perszewski is a freelance writer and former associate editor of Ameri­can Farriers Journal.

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