Filly with Club Foot

rfsm.jpgThis is a 9 month old filly whose right front foot is clubby. It has been shod on the recommendation of several vets and farriers who believe the tendon is ‘tight’ (despite no evidence to indicate this), and shoeing it and gradually lowering the heel is expected to correct this situation.

The toe wall has begun to bulge out,  possibly  as a result of the shoe ‘holding’ the bottom of the foot while the rest of the foot tries to grow outward.


lfsm.jpg The left front leg is shown for comparison. Note the differences in the angle of the long pastern bone (P1)  in relation to the  short pastern bone (P2)







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Heel Height and Pastern Angles

A Right Front Foot With Poor Hoof Form Causing Steep Pastern Angles

The foot starts out with very poor hoof form, and in fact the horse was lame at the time of the before photo. The lateral cartilage (1) is unnaturally pushed up and and bulging out of the back of the hoof capsule, the heel (2) is too high and forward and the lateral quarter (3) is too long causing the flare and chipping. But the most glaring problem is the steep pastern angle (red line) resulting from the heel height and location and toe length.

1rfside.JPG       2rfsideabl.JPG  Before                                                                       After Second Trim

It is commonly believed that the pastern angle is fixed and the hoof should be trimmed to match it.  This is a misconception, as the joint is mobile and the angle easily altered according to the hoof form, provided there is no joint adaptation and the joint still retains a normal range of motion.  In this case the pastern angle was changed to a much healthier alignment in two trims by lowering the heels, bringing them back towards the widest point of the frog, shortening the quarter walls, and shortening the toe.

Sheared Heels

This is the Left Front foot, shoes just removed, and has sheared heels.

This type of pathology can be caused when the feet are trimmed unlevel, and the shoes fix the structures and tissues in this position.  It is most easily dealt with by allowing the horse to be barefoot, where the foot can be trimmed in such a way to allow the imbalances to correct themselves.


While the inside and outside walls are the same in length, the inside is higher, starting further up the leg (point B).  The hairline (green line) is steeper on the outside than the inside.  The connective tissue inside has been held in place pathologically and has adapted to this orientation.  To make a change towards a healthier foot, the inside (higher) wall is trimmed shorter.  As the horse places weight on the leg it allows point B to move down (from the red line to the yellow line), and eventually the tissues readapt to their natural position.

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No More Navicular

Barefoot horse takes second place in Hunter Pace, Hilltopping Division. 

Windy Hollow Hunt, May 7 2006 Spring Hunter Pace (Florida, NY)

View Official Results Here


This 20 yo OTTB, who went barefoot at the age of 15 after a fatal navicular diagnosis, completed the challenging hunter pace completely bare (no hoof boots). The terrain included dirt roads, hard-packed grass fields after weeks of no rain, softer grassy fields, a ditch and muddy bank on the edge of a stream, a good bit of rocky going, asphalt road crossings, and deep plowed up cornfields.

Besides the beautiful red ribbon (visible on the bridle above), the prize was one free hunt capping fee for the ’06-’07 Season.  Barefoot fox-hunting next?

The worst thing that happened was that the rider lost her favorite crop which had been in her possession for many, many years and miles, was just the right length and balance, and probably cannot be replaced.

One month later horse and rider completed another hunter pace (Spring Valley Hounds, New Vernon, NJ), this time in the Open Division.  Again they rode shoe and boot-less and although the footing was more forgiving, there were 2’6 high jumps, a much faster pace (thanks to improved fitness) and stiffer competition.

Here is a picture of the pair jumping a stone wall at Spring Valley Hounds.

His complete case will be published in future posts, so check back!


The horse, a 5 yo Clydesdale/TB cross, was shod for a period of about six months (or less) while four years old, during which time he developed splints.

After shoes were removed, he was trimmed for minor lateral imbalances, pigeon toes, slightly high heels, and too long quarter walls resulting in wavy hoofwall rings. The splints were reduced in size as a side effect of that trimming, leading one to conclude there is a possibility that pigeon toed “conformation”, combined with concussion, can cause splints.


Approx. time of this trim July ’06.

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Quarter Crack

 The horse, about 7 or 8 years old had been barefoot for most of his life, with apparently appropriately short heels and toes, but still had persistent quarter cracks on both feet. His feet were badly unbalanced and had underrun heels. 


Right Front Before

during-crack.jpg                                          sole-heels.jpg

During                                                              Before Sole View RF foot

Heel position improved, removing lever forces on hoofwall. Hoof/Pastern Axis improved. The crack is still visible but is no longer splitting.

The sole view shows uneven underrun heels – the lateral heel of the RF is more underrun than the medial one and is further forward underneath the foot (refer to yellow line and arrows) , which is contributing to the quarter crack on that side of the foot. During the following months the heels were brought back to the widest point of the frog where they lined up with each other.

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The Heel Pain Stance and Proper Body Posture

 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. rfbef.JPG 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  rfaftsm.jpg

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Healthy Foot Shape

These feet belong to a 3 yo horse who has never been shod and has developed healthy foot shape.

Front Feet

smrublfaft.jpg         smhealthyrfsole.jpg 

  L                                                                         R

The front feet are round and symmetrical following the natural shape of the coffin bone.

Hind Feet

     3smlhaftrub.jpg        2smrhsolerub.jpg

   L                                                                      R

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.

Underrun Heels, Broken Forward Hoof Pastern Axis

anneurhbf.jpg       anneurhsibf.jpg    anneurh.jpg© 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

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