An example of incorrect stance due to heel pain or imbalance:
This horse exhibits signs of heel pain by placing its left leg behind its right one, behind the vertical. The neck is held stiffly in an upright position with the bottom of the neck appearing “longer” than the top and rigidity in the lower muscles. The triangle at the withers and scapula show depressions in the muscles. When holding its body this way for extended durations, the underneath neck muscles become overdeveloped and the topline underdeveloped. The ears are grumpily flattened.
A horse is standing correctly when its cannon bones are vertical (or perpendicular to the ground). If a horse continually stands with one or both legs behind the vertical, he likely is experiencing heel pain. It can also be a matter of unbalanced feet, wtih the heels on one foot being higher than the other. The higher-heeled foot tends to be the one held back as the horse seeks to balance himself. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between heel pain, and a horse not weighting its heel from long term joint adaptation.
The pony stands up correctly after a balanced trim
2003 Black 15.2 GOV Mare- Routinier (Rhodiamont/Rubinstein)
A beautifully moving barefoot horse
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These feet belong to a 3 yo horse who has never been shod and has developed healthy foot shape.
The front feet are round and symmetrical following the natural shape of the coffin bone.
These feet exhibit the spade shape characteristic of healthy hind feet. The pointed toes allow the foot to dig into the ground and push off. This allows the horse to have good traction and propulsion.
The naturally assymetrical shape of the hind feet is apparent in these photos. It is clear without labeling which is the right foot and which is the left, with the lateral side being more curved and the medial side straigher. This geometry carries through to the bars as well.
It’s not even any greener on the other side !
What about you, got any good ones?
This is a case of a 14 yo QH with an improperly healed fracture of a large left hind leg bone which prevented him from using the leg properly and moving or standing comfortably. At the time he was reclaimed by his owner, he walked with great difficulty.
The injury to the LH is apparent in his odd stance. It prevented him from holding his foot up for trimming and thus all his feet had become overgrown. He was unable to hold up his feet or bend his legs in any way that allowed the toes to be trimmed, and no sling was available. Consequently, his toes were not shortened enough during his initial trims seen here.
Typically, high heels are more common in the front feet than the hinds. Here the hind heels became high as a result of the injury.
The Left Hind foot prior to trimming, and during the course of the next six months.
© Anne Daimler, FL
Fig. 5 Fig. 6 Fig. 7
Underrun heels area often considered to be “low” or as “having no heel”. Here the heel is underrun but so long that it is causing an incorrect, broken-forward hoof pastern axis (Fig. 6). After trimming, the heel, while still somewhat forward, is shorter and the hoof pastern axis is much improved (Fig. 7).
Original photo courtesy of Julie Leitl, Victoria, Australia
Updated With New Photo
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New Photo December 2006
This horse exhibits what is sometimes called “high/low syndrome” with one foot having high heels usually on a contracted foot (which may or may not be a clubfoot), and the other with low and sometimes underrun heels, flat and lacking concavity. The horse usually stands in a scissor stance, with the high-heeled foot back behind him and the flat foot in front of him, due to the discomfort of weighting the back of the high-heeled foot, which creates a vicious cycle of exacerbating the high heeled condition.
Before August September November
These horses were recently rescued from an operation using horses in their historical re-creation shows. The two in the front will stay in Central NJ. The Appaloosa has an advanced case of coonfoot and the spotted Appaloosa, who has found a home in a rescue in Phillipsburg has an improperly healed fracture making his left hind leg unusable. The thin one is barefoot and will be receiving regular trims when necessary.
Strangely, his hind feet are in worse shape than his fronts, with much more bruising, possible old laminitis, and a very large abscess in the Right Hind.
Underrun heels are defined by comparing the heel tubule angles to the toe wall tubule angles. They should be parallel. If the tubules converge (in the lateral view) from their starting point at the coronet towards the toe, they are underrun. Harder hoof wall is less prone to being crushed into this geometry so the horse with genetically harder feet is better off to start with (in this respect).
There are specific trimming techniques for preventing heels from becoming underrun, if the horse is left barefoot. In general, the heels would be trimmed frequently (in this case, perhaps once a week), bringing them back to line up with the widest part of the frog. Then, one would also relieve, or float, the quarters very slightly under the heel area to prevent the tubules from being crushed by the weight of the leg and start running forward.
It’s also essential to keep the toes as short as possible to avoid drawing the heels forward as the toes grow forward. Maximum turnout is also helpful to prevent ammonia from weakening the tubules and allowing them to become crushed.
Fig. 1 Fig. 2
Photos above illustrate an underrun heel. The superimposed lines in Fig 2 follow the direction of the tubules. In a healthy hoof the tubules are diverging or at least parallel – here they would converge if the lines were extended beyond the toe. The angle the heel tubule makes with the ground is more acute than the one the toe tubule makes with the ground, which is incorrect (Fig. 2)
© Julie Leitl, Victoria, Australia
Fig. 3 Fig. 4
Another example of underrun heels, with the weightbearing point having grown far forward onto the sole (Fig. 4, yellow arrow). The pink arrow shows where the heel should be, i.e. even with the widest point of the frog.
This foot also looks like it may have a negative plane coffin bone, which seems to occur more frequently on hind feet.