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Contracted Heels - what to know

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Contracted heels or a contracted hoof is something we commonly see in horses who have previously been shod and something I think many owners are unaware of. A contracted hoof can be caused by various issues but shoeing horses is an overwhelming contributor to this particular problem.

We have transitioned many horses from shod to barefoot and have experience rehabbing Navicular and DDFT damage, so unfortunately we see first-hand the damage that can be done from shoeing. Whilst contracted heels may not sound as scary as chronic Laminitis, lengthy periods of maintaining a chronically contracted hoof can cause the digital cushion to atrophy, which protects the foot's complex bone and soft-tissue structures. Compromising the function of the digital cushion means it then fails to protect the deep flexor tendon and navicular bone, which can potentially lead to Navicular disease.

Additionally, contracted heels can become a breeding ground for Thrush which only contributes to any lameness, pain or soreness experienced by your equine.

This is Bamroc’s hoof and whilst he most definitely isn’t the worst case of contracted heels we’ve ever seen, we have documented his hoof transformation from his arrival to last month, approximately 11 months apart. I think this comparison accurately depicts the difference no shoes, movement and a natural trim can make.

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