Have you ever heard others complain that, “My farrier cut all the heel off?” Or perhaps you’ve even said yourself, “Don’t touch the heels, that’s how the last guy crippled him.” I’m sure I have at least thousands of times.
It’s a misconception, however, to think that leaving excess heel will help “stand your horse up.” In fact, common sense may trick you into thinking, the more stood up the better. That is simply false information, and the side effects can lead to real problems.
I’m not saying to only take off heel; I’m just saying it’s necessary to take off some of the heel to get the foot back up under the leg where it’s supposed to be. Heels grow forward and at a greater angle than the toe.
Hoof balance with good heel support is a major key in achieving soundness with any horse. Simply chopping the toes off is not enough to back the whole foot up.
- The red lines indicate the long heels first point of ground contact.
- The yellow lines indicate the first point of ground contact of a trimmed back heel.
- You will notice the red line is a lot further forward than the yellow line.
The problem with this is that it puts the load of the horse (weight distribution) directly over the bony column, navicular region, and coffin joint, thereby affecting the whole foot.
Further back is the yellow line where the hoof is designed to take the load of the horse, over the Digital Cushion.
Problems that can result from excess heel:
- Heel pain
- Navicular disease
- Coffin joint injections
- Navicular bursa requiring injections
- Jamming of the coronary band, leading to quarter cracks, therefore causing the foot to become more under run
- Heels contracting/crushing
- Toes running forward
- Horse’s will feel cumbersome and slow footed, etc.
By Lee Olsen
Hoof Care Specialist and AFA Certified Journeyman Farrier