Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Sheared Heels

Synonyms: Jammed Heel, Jamming, Displaced Heel

This is a very common hoof capsule distortion in which one heel bulb is pushed upward relative to the other one. This condition can easily be seen when viewing the hoof from behind, especially on a flat surface. It is both an observation and a diagnosis.

It can be associated with lameness, although sometimes it is not. It is probably an adaptation to how a horse loads the hoof and relates to conformation. When sheared heel becomes severe it becomes a problem to the horse.

In most cases, an underlying cause for the sheared heel can be found. This might be improper hoof balance in trimming or shoeing, change in gait due to another cause of lameness, or related to conformation (base wide, angled outward). When a horse angles out at the hoof, there is overload of the inside wall and heel. This causes the coronet band to be pushed up relative to the outside one. The heel bulb and coronet will be higher on the affected side.

Treatment involves ensuring that underlying conditions have been ruled out and that hoof balance is correct. Correction may require a period of rest and unloading of the upward displace side which will allow it to settle into a more even position. The landing pattern of the hoof also needs to be looked at and addressed.

In many cases, a bar shoe with unloading of the affected heel will be required in order to allow the upward displaced heel to lower over time. Blowout or spontaneous cracks starting at the coronet are associated with sheared heel. Management of the sheared heel will usually prevent the development of these cracks.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

RELATED REFERENCES

Higgins AJ, Snyder JR eds. The Equine Manual. 2nd Ed. Edinburgh: Elsevier Saunders 2006.

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