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Discuss Correcting contracted heels at the Horse Health forum - Horse Forums.

I am wondering about methods for correcting contracted heels. I have been reading a lot ...
  1. #1
    Senior Member+ steeledancer's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
    Saskatchewan, Canada

    Correcting contracted heels

    I am wondering about methods for correcting contracted heels. I have been reading a lot on the internet, and there are so many opinioins... so, I'm looking for more opinions!
    What helps, what hinders?
    Thanks in advance!
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  2. #2
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    May 2005
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    hmmm my horse had contracted heels and the farrier put some wierd shoes on him. id ask your local farrier for advice
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  3. #3
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    I've never gone through it, so I am curious to hear the methods as well Where are those darn farriers??? LOL
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  4. #4
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    Contracted Heels are caused from hooves that are imbalanced and unlevel. Incorrect trimming. The heels are left too high/long for the foot to expand upon loading. The hoof is landing incorrectly on the ground; too small shoes; shoes that are improperly applied; hooves that are shaped to fit the shoe rather than the shoe to fit the hoof. The frog has to have adequate ground contact in order to function at it peak abilities. The frog is responsible for shock absorption and blood circulation. Sandwiched under that is the Digital Cushion which is, just as its called ... a "cushion" for the "digit" meaning its a protectant shock absorber for the hoof, too. When the frog is unable to function and withers away, the DC is also impacted and turns into a fatty compound of tissue rather than the fibrous cartilage substance it needs to be for maximum functioning. Contracted Heels can and do cause navicular pain because without the physiologically correct mechanism of the entire foot, all portions of the hoof suffer. It is imperative to have a CORRECT trim applied on a regular basis. It can be a trim that is given by a human or a trim self given by the horse through correct and abundant movement on hard, firm terrain. Nature trims the best given proper environment however, the trim applied by a human MUST be correct for the hooves to work correctly and efficiently for the individual horse.

    To read about what a correct trim is for maximum efficiency of the Equine foot, go to http://www.barefoottrim.com or http://www.barefoothorse.com and read about the shape and dimensions of the general equine hoof. There's ALOT to learn!

    My preference to correcting contracted heels is to pull shoes and trim CORRECTLY according to the individual horse's requirements. Then allow the horse to MOVE ... turnout 24/7 on varied terrain. Rocky, sandy, grassy, muddy ... the horse HAS to move. That's the way they are hardwired. There are not designed for stall living. Their entire bodies are intended to function while moving.

    Next to a correct trim, or even before it, MOVEMENT is paramount to healthy hooves.

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  5. #5
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    One of my horses had contracted heels from over 4 years of being shod while I leased him out to a riding instructor. I had his shoes pulled and put him on pasture turnout. normal trimming schedule and normal movement. In 6 months he went from being lame due to the contracted heels (VET X-rays showed his contracted heels pressing on the lateral cartilages in the hoof causing pinching and pain in the heels). To being a sound rideable horse again.

  6. #6
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    Contracted heels from my experience is from too small badly fitted shoes, Some farriers I have known have used size "ought" on all of every size foot. Find a farrier that uses the correct size for that horses foot.

  7. #7
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    Badly fitted shoes are NOT the only casue of contracted heels although it is often a cause. For example my horse was shod by a master certifed farrier and he used several different techniques in shoeing to help correct the contracted heels and NOTHING helped until the shoes were removed totally.

  8. #8
    Senior Member AQHA_Gizmo's Avatar
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    Jan 2004
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    Aren't contracted heels also known as pinched heels? If so, Gizmo has those. Not from bad shoeing over his 20 years of life, but conformation. Our awesome farrier just puts a little bit extra shoe on the outside towards the back part of the hoof, hoping it will grow out that way.

  9. #9
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    Yes pinched heels are antoher term for it and leaveing the shoes fitted wider at the heels is one way to try and help, but that does not always help. That tactic was also tried on my horse and it didn't work.

  10. #10
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    Feb 2005
    In general, methods for addressing contracted heels includes both shoes and barefoot. If shoes are used, the most successful methods that I have seen are to use a wide web shoe that addresses breakover (Natural Balance is one brand). By supporting the heels, backing up breakover and addressing optimal heel placement, the foot will open up and become more round and heels will decontract.

    When barefoot, sometimes it is difficult to address contraction if the ground is soft as it can contribute to the problem by allowing the heels to sink in rather than expand on contact. Shoes are not a primary cause of contraction. While they can contribute to the issue if they are incorrectly applied, it is the underlying trim that really matters. Barefoot horses can also have contracted heels if the trim doesn't address optimal balance/alignment and/or the terrain doesn't promote expansion.

    As Caballus already pointed out, the frog plays a major roll in addressing contraction. Simply shoeing full in the heels will not promote decontraction unless other things are at work. The hoof form must be trimmed toward a goal of optimal balance/alignment, the heels cannot be allowed to continue to be too high or underrun. The toes must be backed up. The frog should make ground contact, or in a shod hoof a device should be applied to emulate ground contact until the frog is returned to full health and size.

    Some of the other methods that I have seen used to decontract heels mostly include shoes.....shoes applied backward, wedges, various types of pads, bar shoes and even springs applied between the heels to force them appart. However, what all of these methods generally miss is that the hoof strives to maintain its mass. That is, if you pull on one side, the other (generally opposite) responds by moving in the same direction. So, if the toe is left long, it continues to "pull" the hoof out of shape and the heels follow forward. Likewise, if the toes are backed up, but the heels are allowed to remain in the same high or underrun position, hoof form will not generally improve as the back is still pushing the front forward.

    So, without addressing the underlying trim, it becomes nearly impossible to correct contracted heels. In general, when shoes are pulled and the hoof responds favorably when it didn't in shoes, two things are at work. The action of the frog making ground contact and the self-trimming nature of a barefoot hoof. Without the protection of the shoe, the hoof form can and usually does change because it can now wear itself down to a more correct form as the horse moves.
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