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A farrier told me that my horse has week heels.

What does this mean?
What do weak heels look like versus strong heels?
How does one strengthen heels?

My horse is barefoot and usually lands either heel-first or flat.
 

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A farrier told me that my horse has week heels.

What does this mean?
What do weak heels look like versus strong heels?
How does one strengthen heels?

My horse is barefoot and usually lands either heel-first or flat.
That’s a new one :smile:

Can you post some clear pictures with the horse on mats or solid ground?

It sounds as if the farrier only made the comment and did not suggest any help?
 

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Weak heels would probably mean underdeveloped digital cushions and/or lateral cartilages. Robust heels would be nice and plump, weak heels would be kind of flat looking (thinking above the hairline). Development of these structures would be the result of lots of correct movement. It's said by some that once these structures deteriorate (or never develop, as in perhaps stall raised foals), they cannot return - others say this is not true.


I have a picture of a dissection showing the difference, but figured I'd better ask permission to post it.
 

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Weak heels would probably mean underdeveloped digital cushions and/or lateral cartilages. Robust heels would be nice and plump, weak heels would be kind of flat looking (thinking above the hairline). Development of these structures would be the result of lots of correct movement. It's said by some that once these structures deteriorate (or never develop, as in perhaps stall raised foals), they cannot return - others say this is not true.


I have a picture of a dissection showing the difference, but figured I'd better ask permission to post it.
Thanks for that - it’s something I’ve never dealt with or seen:)

Hopefully the OP can post pictures so those of you with knowledge of this can give an opinion and I can learn something:)
 

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Could also mean contracted heels. Unfortunately, that is generally a farrier caused issue so I wouldn't trust the current farrier to be able to correct it.
 

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Hi, weak heels are unfortunately so common as to be disregarded by many as 'normal'. Dogpatch has explained well i think.

Are your horses lateral cartilages thin & flexible? If you can place your fingers on the 'frog stay' area and directly above that, between lateral cartilages, how does it feel? Is it bulky & really firm, or is it thin &/or soft, flexible? Does your horse land easily & comfortably heel first on whatever terrain? Or is he a bit 'cautious' on rough ground?

Certain horses - Arabs, standies, draft types for e.g. tend to innately have stronger caudal foot development than others, but as with most hoof related, development - environment & lifestyle plays the biggest part in whether a horse develops strong caudal feet. Every horse starts with thinnish lateral cartilages & soft, fatty digital cushions. Even in ideal situations(e.g. arid zone feral who does many miles daily on hard ground from birth), according to Dr bowker's research only begins to develop thick, capillary filled lateral cartilages & tough, fibrocartilaginous digital cushions around 4 years old. Very many domestic horses go their entire life with undeveloped caudal foot. Cushy paddocks or home environs,, too little exercise and hoof management - eg shod prior to maturity are the main causes. If a horse never develops them when young enough, or they are too damaged, from conventional shoes on hard ground, esp when immature, or hard work on weak structures for e.g., there is evidence according again to Bowker that they can never recover & become robust.

Contraction is one of the outer signs of weak heels & can come about due to the above. I don't agree that it is generally carrier caused - tho routinely paring frog or leaving heels too high or toes too long can indeed cause heel sensitivity & lead to contraction.
 

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From my experience, "weak heels" could mean either A.) soft, weak hooves in general that make a horse 'gimpy' on rough terrain, B.) contracted heels, or C.) underrun heels. However, without a picture it's hard to say exactly what your farrier means.

This is a PDF on contracted heels with several images: file:///home/chronos/u-cd8d8a85880d914f2d02fc1ccaa9a0d165ea3a6f/MyFiles/Downloads/contractedheelswebedition.pdf

And if that's not viewable for some reason, here's where you can download it: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327388847_Contracted_heels

This is a decent article that explains a little on underrun heels: https://barehoofcare.com/index.php/...hoof-capsule-problems/underrun-heals-article/

Movement wise, issues with heels or hoof balance can change a horse's posture a great deal. My mare had unbalanced hooves for a while due to a poor farrier, and in result she moved rather stiff-backed and didn't have good length of stride at all in the front. Fortunately, I managed to find a better farrier and since then she's improved greatly. Likewise, I've had a horse with flat, "pancake" shaped front feet with small heels, and due to this he was often easily sore or bruised if you were riding on rougher terrain/rocky terrain. He never had what I would consider "perfect" feet, but with proper trimming and shoeing they did become much better. I think conformation plays a good deal into the amount of impact on the heels, as a horse with poor/downhill conformation will be heavier on the forehand naturally, and therefore carry more weight on the forehand than a horse with better conformation. Posture can play into it a great deal as well, but often posture is likely more caused by the poor hooves than the posture causing poor hooves.

As for fixing them - well, one way would be through corrective trimming/shoeing, and possibly by some hoof supplements if the hoof itself is weak in general. But I don't think anyone could tell you for sure a way to fix it without pictures/videos. Having a vet look at pictures of your horses feet or the feet in person would also be very helpful to get a second opinion as to what your farrier said, because not all farriers are equal and I typically prefer getting a second or third opinion before venturing to fix something, just in case.
 
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