Dealing with Sheared Heels

The causes of this common problem may be more complex than they appear on the surface

Among many of the challenges a farrier must deal with are sheared heels. Scott Morrison, the veterinarian and farrier who leads the Podiatry Department at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Lexington, Ky., says this problem is usually the result of less than ideal conformation. Usually the horse toes in or out, putting more stress on one side of the hoof wall (and heel) than the other. When a horse develops sheared heels, the stressed heel becomes jammed upward, the hoof symmetry is distorted and one heel is bearing most of the weight.

The clinical definition of sheared heels according to “Podiatry Terminology,” a glossary originally published in Equine Veterinary Education, and reprinted in the November 2007 issue of American Farriers Journal, is a “Displacement of one heel bulb proximally relative to the adjacent heel bulb. Thought to result from abnormal loading on one side of the foot.”

Julie Bullock, DVM, a podiatrist in Mt. Sidney, Va., says she often sees sheared heels on horses with an extreme toe-in or toe-out conformation or abnormal landing patterns. The horse that lands harder on one side of the foot than the other will eventually develop sheared heels.

“It’s not just how the foot is landing while in motion,” she explains. “As that imbalance starts becoming more pronounced, then the static balance is also distorted and will contribute to the problem. Injuries can also create sheared heels.”

The earlier you catch it and deal with it, the better. If there’s too much stress on…

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Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas is a freelance writer based in Salmon, Idaho. She has been writing books and articles for nearly 50 years.

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