MSD Manual

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Professional Version

Sheared Heels in Horses


James K. Belknap

, DVM, PhD, DACVS, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Ohio State University

Reviewed/Revised Sep 2015 | Modified Oct 2022

In sheared heels, there is severe acquired imbalance of the foot with asymmetry of the heels. When viewing the caudal aspect of the foot, one heel is higher than the other side; the higher side commonly has a more vertical hoof wall. When viewed from the side, the coronary band does not gradually angle toward the ground surface in a cranial-to-caudal direction (the normal appearance) on the higher side. Some horses with sheared heels are lame. Hoof cracks, deep fissuring between the bulbs of the heel, and thrush frequently accompany the problem. Sheared heels are most likely caused by abnormal forces being placed on one side of the foot and are seen frequently in horses with abnormal limb or foot conformation on the affected foot or feet.

Corrective trimming and shoeing, in an attempt to restore proper heel alignment and foot balance, are required and entail floating the heel on the higher heel. A full bar shoe to increase ground surface area while protecting the affected quarter and heel is used. Several shoe resettings may be required before improvement is evident. The prognosis is good in uncomplicated cases if the corrective measures are consistently applied until new hoof growth occurs.

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