Farriers' Roundtables

What is the best way to trim and shoe a horse with contracted heels? It seems like I often see contracted heels along with a long-toe problem.

Q. What is the best way to trim and shoe a horse with contracted heels? It seems like I often see contracted heels along with a long-toe problem.

— Missouri Farrier

A: You’re well on your way to answering your own question. You have already identified one of the causes of contracted heels — the long toe.

When addressing a diseased foot, we should always differentiate between symptoms and causes. Contracted heels can occur due to lameness, hoof imbalance, conformation, improper farrier care, etc., and are typically a symptom.

Contracted heels have been with us for a very long time and many treatments have been tried — heel springs, slippered heels, frog pressure, etc., but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus among professionals as to what works best. 

I’ll give you my opinion and let you bang it against the anvil of truth in your own head so you can make up your own mind. I will assume that we’re talking about contracted heels unassociated with a lameness. Heel contraction from lameness resulting in improper weight bearing is a symptom of the lameness, so treat the lameness and the heels should return to normal.

Heel contractions resulting from imbalanced feet are much more common than lameness cases. When encountering them in the field, I look at the whole horse and try to determine the cause and then treat it — not the heels. With the long-toed horse, the hoof capsule has become elongated and since the quarters have straightened…

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