Managing Heel Pain Begins with Prevention

A balanced trim and the correct horseshoe optimizes outcomes

Heel pain is a common problem in performance horses. While treating it often requires trial and error, ingenuity and a good foundational trim lead to a positive prognosis for many horses

Once associated almost exclusively with navicular syndrome, heel pain is now known to originate from a variety of conditions, including dysfunction within the navicular apparatus, underlying inflammation in the internal hoof structures and poor hoof balance. 

Blane Chapman, an American Farrier’s Association (AFA) Certified Journeyman Farrier of Vernon, Texas, works with horses competing in a variety of Western disciplines. Through his practical approach to managing horses with heel pain, many of his clients’ horses have been able to return to successful competitive careers.

An Ounce of Prevention

While some horses can be predisposed to navicular syndrome or unspecified heel pain, Chapman says these diagnoses tend to be problems that are secondary to a shared common denominator: a poorly balanced hoof.

Farrier Takeaways

  • Heel pain in performance horses tends to be problems that are secondary to a poorly balanced hoof.
  • Executing a balanced trim begins with the ability to recognize external hoof distortions and understand how best to restore the hoof to more ideal parameters.
  • The correct horseshoe often plays a role in optimizing outcomes.

“When somebody says their horse is heel sore, navicular is usually the first thing we think about,” Chapman told attendees at the 2023 International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio. “But with most of the horses that come to me, that’s not the primary problem —…

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Jessica Lash

Jessica Lash is an Indiana-based freelance writer, dedicated barrel racer, and lifelong horse enthusiast

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