Think Before You Wedge Those Heels

Without proper supporting structures, you may cause further damage to the palmar aspect of the foot you’re trying to help

First: Why do I want to do this?

Second: Is raising the heels going to accomplish what I want it do?

The answers to those questions are really just the start of a list of things to consider, according to Dr. Stephen O’Grady, farrier and equine veterinarian. The member of the International Equine Veterinarians Hall Of Fame from Marshall, Va., makes it pretty clear that while he feels there may be many situations when raising the heels is beneficial, there are a lot of other times when farriers and equine veterinarians use the practice when it should be avoided.

The Good And The Bad

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 O’Grady says it’s also important to realize that raising the heels may have side effects — often negative ones.

O’Grady 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…

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Pat_tearney

Pat Tearney

Pat Tearney is a long-term newspaper and magazine veteran writer and editor. Before retiring, he served for a number of years on the American Farriers Journal staff and continues to share his writing talents with our readers.

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