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Long Toe, Low Heel. Should I be worried?

This is the most common hoof problem I see on a regular basis.

I went and saw a horse the otherday that the rider could only walk around on. The last person to try to trot it fell off and the owner wanted to see what my thoughts were, as well as the best approach forward with this horse. The horse had been seen by vets for all sorts and body workers as it was sore through its body and although the horse had been cleared, still nothing has made it behave better. My First visual on approach was its feet. Long Toe, Low Heel, much more drastic than the example photo below. It amazes me that people don't take feet angles seriously, that the vet never mentioned it, that its feet are done regularly and that's the way the horse is trimmed. To me it makes sense that the feet would be a huge factor into its behaviour, why it was recently body sore and also why for this particular horse its okay at walk with a low impact movement and as soon as the pressure and impact increases it bucks, cow kicks and rears.

The combination of long toe, low heel can have a massive impact on the well being of your horse. Not just within the hoof capsule but it can also cause problems with tendons, joints and bone deterioration, movement and cause pain throughout the body.

So what is Long toe, Low heel?

LTLH as it is put is simply as it describes. A toe that is longer than it should, a heel that is lower than it should be. Its most common to see in the front feet but is also seen often in the hind feet as well.

what creates long toe, low heel?

LTLH can be created from many different factors.

-Poor farrier work allowing the toe to get long, heel to run under/get low.

-Poor farrier style, some barefoot trimmers and farriers use a style that encourages a long toe and remove the heel.

-Leaving your trimming/shoeing cycle too long. Unshod horses heel will run under and grow poor when the toe angle gets too long in between cycles. This is because the weight bearing shifts which restricts a healthy growth.

Leaving shoes on too long can keep the toe long and as it grows forward the base of the support of the shoe moves forward. Hoof wall grows to the base of the support and as the heel of the shoe moves forward so does the base of the support.

By shortening your cycle the base of the support and weight loading doesn’t have as much change and make a smaller negative effect on the angles in which the Hoof wall will grow at.

-Breeds & Confirmation can play a huge role.

-Shoes that are too small.

What problems are caused by Long toe, Low heel.

This is a serious problem that can cause a variety of lameness’s. As the centre of weight shifts, it increases the effort taken to break over the long fulcrum making it difficult for the heels to rotate around the toe. Suspensory ligaments and the proximal sesamoid bones can be effected by long toe length but the most common effects of a difficult break over will add Tension in the Deep Digital Flexor Tendon (DDFT). Added tension to the DDFT can lead to bowed or strained tendons but also seen in recent dissections is deterioration in the DDFT where it supports the fetlock. The Navicular bone is also seen to be effected as the navicular ligaments are stretched beyond their normal limits, This effects the stability of the navicular bone and can lead to problems.

Often seen in horses with LTLH is back, shoulder and rump pain. As the angle of the hooves change so does the centre of balance in the hoof. This not only effects the movement in the break over effecting the way the bones and ligaments in the leg move but also how they move throughout the body.

Because the angles of the hoof changes the way the body moves, often horses with poor hoof angles move incorrectly or correctly with less ease and it causes strain on the joints and muscles throughout the rest of the body.

How do you fix Long toe, Low heel?

In most cases backing up the toe and leaving the heel can be an effective solution. In some cases remedial shoes may be necessary in fixing your horses feet. A wedged shoe can be used to raise the Angle of the hoof at the heel. The shoe should extend behind the heels the sit approximately below the coronary band. Yes, this leaves the shoe a little vulnerable but as the hoof grows to the base of the support, the support needs to be moved back to allow a healthy heel to grow. It may take several trim and shoeing cycles to bring the hoof back to normal.

If you think this is a problem effecting your horse, Speak with your farrier or trimmer about there thoughts on your horses feet. Ask them to back the toe up and see what they say. Most professionals are often happy to work with their client and if they aren’t it may be time to consider other options for the good of your horse. If you would like an independent opinion on your horses feet, feel free to get in contact! Loved this read? Leave a comment, share and sign up for our next month’s post.

Perfect example of long toe, low heel taken from site,

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