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.

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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.

Three months later

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The inside and outside heel points and wall weightbearing points (in red) are beginning to line up (as demonstrated by the light blue dashed line).  The hairline (in green) has begun to adopt a healthier appearance with more similar angles comparing inside to outside, as well as becoming more rounded or curved in appearance, reflecting the improving health of the inner tissues.  

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7 Comments

  1. This is what I’m seeing. But will the inner quarter start to angle outward, as it now looks to be angling toward the center of the hoof, like the whole base of the hoof is shifting laterally…?

  2. Hi Barbara

    What you are seeing is a ‘deformity’, known as contraction beyond the vertical. This is partially caused by the imbalance created from the sheared heels, but is a separate problem, more difficult to correct than sheared heels per se. But with medial/lateral balance restored, the pressure will be corrected and the wall will be able to begin crowing outward in the correct direction.

  3. I am dealing with hind feet that have sheared heels – inside wall/heel/bar vertical and contracted and outside wall/heel/bar flared. A/P Radiographs show P3 reflects same shape with medial wing vertical and lateral wing flared.

    Any suggestions on how to trim?

    • Hi Sandy,
      Your description does not mean your horse necessarily has sheared heels. While he may in fact have them, a more vertical inside wall and contraction do not indicate such. In fact to some degree it is normal conformation for the inside wall to be more vertical than the outside wall on the hind feet. However it is quite common that the inside wall is higher on the hind feet than the outside wall. If this is the case I would suggest trimming the inside wall lower so that the hairline appears horizontal when viewed from the front.

      In order for the heels to be sheared the entire half of the sheared side is shifted upwards, with all of the tissues included. It does not involve the bone so trimming the sheared side shorter, allowing it to come down gradually, should help. The sheared tissues do need to adjust gradually and start to grow out evenly.

      If you would like to email pictures for further review and discussion you can do so at lookut@nac.net

  4. Catherine Woods

    Oh at last I can see what the problem is with my quarter horse mare…..this is sonething I have never cone across before and I thought it must be conformational, especially as her half sister has a tendency towards the same…..so, I need to address the heels much more carefully, I had been following the sole but think I need to think much more carefully….both of them seem to have very slow growing feet compared to my other horses

    • HI Catherine, thank you for this comment. I do hope this helps you with trimming your mare. When you say you have been “following the sole” can you explain how you have been doing that? Trimming to the live sole is supposed to level out M/L imbalances (such as sheared heels) but in my experience it never addresses the problem. I would be interested in seeing pictures of your horse’s feet to see if it is truly sheared heels and to further see what direction you should take in addressing the issue. Good luck!

  5. Catherine Woods

    Just noticed your reply…..and have rushed out to field to get some shots of Sweetheart’s feet…….unfortunately I never thought to take before shots….basically her heels looked just like the images at the top……i enrolled my friend who is a qualified barefoot trimmer and she confirmed…yep sheared heels…..you see they had been left running out in muddy fields all winter so looked much worse without the regular trims I had done all summer……anyway my friend has done a set up trim and magically, almost imediately we saw the hair line relax down…..today much improved but she will need me to keep that heel in control…… Now somewhere on this thread I saw your e mail so will send you the pics I have just taken

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