Pigeon Toes - Sore Heels

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Q: Hi, I own an Arab gelding who is pigeon toed/toed-in. He is a successful endurance horse, however is at the moment suffering from bruised heels which are believed to be the result of his being toed-in.

Can you suggest any information that may be useful in approaching the shoeing of this horse? Thank you!

A:  I would doubt that the bruised heels are a direct result of your horse being pigeon toed. As long as the horse is trimmed properly--balanced and leveled--so his feet are landing flat, toeing in isn't likely to cause sore heels.
 
My first guess would be to look at his angles. Sore heels are frequently caused by long toes and underslung heels.
 
Being very flat footed or landing markedly heel first can also cause the heels to become sore.
 
Your farrier should not be trying to correct an adult horse's pigeon toes. Balance and level is the rule here. "Corrective" trimming and shoeing can put stresses all the way up the horse's legs and also cause the foot to land unevenly, thus causing pain in the heel area.
 
At least more vets now are aware that bruised heels are the common cause of pain in that area and are not condemning horses by diagnosing navicular disease in most of them as was the practice for many years, when in reality most of these horses could have been brought back to soundness with proper shoeing and rest.
 
Much is already written on the http://americanblacksmith.com/blacksmithstable/horseshoeing_questions-answers.htm web site about heel pain. The information there would apply to your horse regardless of his turned-in toes. Try doing a search for navicular or heel pain or sore heels. As discussed in several places, a piece of hoof rasp welded between the bars of the shoes to protect that area from below might be worth consideration.
 
Endurance riding is, as you know, very stressful on horses. Any deviation from straight legs adds stress to a horse in any profession. This might be a time to consider a career change for your horse, depending on the severity of his crookedness. At this point he can almost certainly be made sound again and continue a comfortable and useful life. If his legs are very crooked his usefulness will be short lived in a high stress profession, whereas he may go on for many years as a recreational trail horse.
 
On the other hand, if his crookedness is minor he may continue as a competitive endurance horse as long as any other horse could be expected to. It is just good to think about these things from time to time, especially when problems begin to arise.
 
Good luck! Please keep me posted on your horse's progress.
 
Sincerely,
Mary Bayard Fitzpatrick
 
American Blacksmith
Murphys, California

mary@americanblacksmith.com

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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.