Low Heels in the Hind Feet - An Often Overlooked Problem

A look at two treatments with succesful clinical results

Low, underrun or collapsed heels affecting the health of the foot or as a cause of lameness has been well documented in the front limbs.1 However, very little information has been written concerning the effects of low or damaged heels in the hind limbs.

Horses with structural damage to the heels of the hind feet will suffer the same consequences associated with the hoof capsule as noted in the front feet, but the hind feet don’t appear to be affected with disease of the internal structures as noted in the forefeet.

This difference may be due to the anatomy of the hind limbs and the propulsionary function of the hind feet. Damage to the structures of the hind feet may be well advanced before lameness is noted. Underrun or collapsed heels in the hind feet may lead to a subtle bilateral lameness, which is often attributed to hock, stifle or back pain.

Lameness issues in the hind limbs are often localized to the proximal suspensory ligament, the hocks or the stifle. Part of the therapy for lameness involving these structures is to raise the heels of the hind feet regardless of the conformation of the hind foot. Long egg bar shoes or egg bar shoes with wedge pads are generally used for this purpose.

Yet there is absolutely no documentation that confirms that heel elevation exerts significant influence on any part of the hind limb anatomy above the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint. 2

Furthermore, heel elevation applied to the hind…

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Stephen O’Grady

Dr. Steve O’Grady is a veterinarian and a farrier. He operates Virginia Therapeutic Farriery in Keswick, Va., which is a referral practice devoted to equine podiatry and therapeutic farriery You can read informative papers by him at Equipodiatry.com. He is a member of the International Equine Veterinarians Hall Of Fame and the American Farriers Journal Editorial Advisory Board.

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