||Dropped down egg bar shoe
Q: The heels on the hind
feet of my 15 year old dressage horse are actually nonexistent. I've tried
"Level It" and it didn't work. We are now using pads to raise the
heels but they are still not growing. The horse is not lame.
Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.
A: Upon study of your question,
two things come to mind. One, nonexistent heels on your dressage horse. Two, the
horse is not lame.
Let's take number one. The nonexistent heels on your dressage horse have caused
you to attempt to correct the situation with LEVEL-IT, and it didn't work. Now
you are using pads to raise the heels and the heels are still not growing. It is
my opinion that the LEVEL-IT didn't work because it wasn't properly used, and I
will explain this later. The pads are not working because they never do in cases
of this severity.
Now for number two. The horse is not lame -- yet. What I mean by "yet"
is that a horse with nonexistent heels that is doing dressage is a time bomb
waiting to go off. I would be willing to bet that this is not an upper level
dressage horse. The engagement required in an upper level dressage horse would
break down a horse in short order if he had nonexistent heels. This horse would
be subjected to corns and degenerative joint disease from the coffin joint to
the hock and sometimes beyond. This condition could also result in strained and
bowed ligaments and tendons as well as damaged muscle and back problems, just to
mention a few things.
Let me say that I have pictured the worst possible scenario, not having seen the
horse. If I could wave a magic wand, I would. But of course I can't so I will
tell you what has worked for me. Thorough knowledge of the anatomy of the hoof
will allow one to realize the very nature and structure of the horse's foot are
horn tubules. I have seen this long toe, low heel syndrome time and time again.
It isn't that you horse doesn't have heels, it is just that they are growing
horizontally instead of vertically. Putting Level-it on the horizontal heel only
stimulates the horn to grow longer horizontal heels. Using wedge pads to raise
the heels will continue this horizontal growth and given enough pressure will
oftentimes crush the horn tubules, thinning and weakening them and causing them
to wear rapidly. Hence, nonexistent heels.
So where do we start? We start by relieving all stress and pressure from the
heel area. This is done with a square toed dropped down egg bar shoe extending
back far enough past the bulbs to put a lift on the fetlock, thereby reducing
the amount of downward thrust that is causing tremendous pressure on the heels.
The shoe should be fitted with quarter clips and should be set back
approximately 1/4 inch from the toe. The heel tubules of horn, from the 4th nail
hole back should be relieved so that this portion of the foot is not touching
the shoe. The success of this shoe will largely depend upon the care given by
the horse owner after the shoes are applied. The horse owner should be given a
brand new, cut-anything hacksaw blade and told to clean out this area daily,
keeping the hoof wall clear 1/8 - 3/16 inch above the shoe. This is necessary so
that the heel area will be relieved of its duties as bearing horn and will allow
the tubules to relax due to the lack of pressure and to start growing vertically
as opposed to horizontally.
Vertical heel growth is not an overnight miracle. The results of this procedure
may take several shoeings on a horse of this age. In the past I have had some
astounding success in short order but those were exceptions to the rule.
Although this shoe may raise the hoof angle, that is not its design and purpose.
Therefore, do not be misled by well meaning people who will tell you to just
jack up the heels. The shoe does not jack up the heels; it is a supportive shoe
and a stress-relieving shoe.
There have been cautions expressed about this type of shoeing. A frequent
caution is, that if this shoe is left on too long it could cause contraction of
tendons. It has been my experience that the structures that contract are the
flexor tendons and Suspensory ligaments, which have been stretched to an
abnormal length and weakening. This shoe will in fact cause these structures to
contract to a more normal length and strength, which will also relieve stress to
the heels of your horses' feet.
Be advised that any corrective shoeing may have negative as well as positive
side effects. Therefore you should pay close attention to excessive heat and/or
swelling that may occur. I mention this only to alert you to these
possibilities. As stated above, however, I have found this shoe to be highly
successful in supporting horses with strained Suspensory ligaments and have seen
it grow heel on young and old horses alike.
I would just like to briefly touch on LEVEL-IT. Had the horizontal tubular horn
been removed clear back to more vertical horn growth and had the LEVEL-IT been
applied then, you may have had success. I think that this shoe is a better
If, after 2 shoeings at 6-8 week intervals you are unable to measure new hoof
growth at the heel, I would suggest that you look into the possibilities of a
full protection shoe and/or heel reconstruction with Equilox. Equilox is a quite
expensive but positive method of treatment.
I am attaching two pictures that show a drop-down egg bar shoe applied to a
horse's foot. In the illustrated instance the shoe has been applied to the front
foot of a horse that has suffered strained Suspensory ligaments also complicated
by bowed tendons. The basic principle of this shoe is to lift and support the
posterior regions of the foot and leg. As you can see in the pictures, the
extension of the shoe goes beyond the bulbs of the foot.
I am very interested in your 15 year old dressage horse because of my previous
successes with this shoe. Please e-mail me your results at the end of two
After the shoe is applied you should measure from the coronary band (hairline)
to the bearing surface of the shoe and record said measurements about every two
weeks. The bearing surface of the shoe is the portion of the shoe that the horse
stands on. The ground surface of the shoe is that portion of the shoe that rests
on the ground.
By the time you are ready for the 3rd shoeing you should be e-mailing me that
you have at least an inch of vertical heel growth.
The American Blacksmith