Raising heels can have some positive effects in therapeutic cases — research indicates it can move these ground reaction forces back toward the heels, can decrease the stress on the deep digital flexor tendon and may ease pressure on the navicular bone. But Equine Veterinarian Hall of Famer Steve O’Grady says it’s also important to realize that  raising the heels may have side effects — often negative ones.

The Marshall, Vir., vet says the technique is used to deal with low or under-run heels — often to the detriment of the horse.

The goal may be a positive one — to restore a proper hoof axis. But the method involves placing additional pressure on structures that are already under added stress — and may have actually failed altogether.

“In reality, when dealing with low heels, extending or elevating the heels is maintaining the alignment of the hoof pastern axis and supporting the deep digital flexor tendon,” says O’Grady, “but increasing the load on the heels, thereby increases the propensity that they will deform and decreases their growth due to the increased pressure. Most actions used to provide support involve movement of the center of pressure.”

Read more on this subject from O'Grady in the May/June 2011, issue of American Farriers Journal.

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