Caudal Heel Syndrome
Diagnosis and Treatment with Proper Trimming and Pour-in Pads
By Tab Pigg, CJF
Proper hoof trimming is vital to the horse’s overall health and quality of life. Hooves that are not properly trimmed become uneven, causing the horse’s weight to be unevenly distributed and the horse to land on its feet differently than when the hooves are properly trimmed. Lameness can result.
Often, farriers and veterinarians focus on trimming the toes more than the heels. When trimming, it’s important to tend to the entire hoof, not just one part. Caudal heel syndrome, also known as navicular syndrome, commonly occurs because heels run too far forward due to lack of trimming.
Symptoms of Caudal Heel Syndrome
When a horse shows signs of lameness and the reason isn’t obvious, often the diagnosis is navicular disease, a degenerative disease that affects the navicular bone and surrounding tissue. More often than not, the horse has caudal heel syndrome and not navicular disease, and can be treated with trimming and solar support products.
There are many different causes of caudal heel syndrome, and symptoms can be addressed to discourage the occurrence of the condition. Below are just a few examples of some potential causes and symptoms:
Toes: Often owners and farriers will focus only on trimming the toes, and the heel grows forward towards the toe and underneath the foot. When this happens, the horse’s foot is not flat on the ground.
Long Heels: Heels grow at an angle. As seen in the image of the horse with the long toe, the angle continues under the foot because it is not trimmed. As the heel grows under the foot, it changes how the horse bears its weight.
Pinched Heels: If the heels are too far forward, they become pinched and contracted, causing the horse to bear all of its weight on its toes. If this is not treated in a timely manner, ligament injury can result.
Landing On Toes: When a horse is walking or trotting and landing only on its toes, this could indicate that the heels are sore.
Managing Caudal Heel Syndrome
Instead of assuming a horse has something as serious as navicular disease, it’s important to determine what caused the lameness in the first place.
How often are the horse’s hooves being trimmed?
When standing, is the horse’s weight being distributed evenly?
Is the heel overgrown?
A horse needs to distribute its weight evenly so it can land on its feet without putting stress on the toes and pinching the heels. A farrier should be able to measure and decide if the heel is too long and trim the feet as needed. If the condition is more advanced or progresses further, modern techniques including nerve blocking, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and x-rays can be used to determine the exact location of the pain in the foot.
This hoof has an overgrown heel, causing the foot to not be flat on the ground, and the horse to bear its weight unevenly.
This horse has a trimmed hoof that is flat on the ground.
When a horse is diagnosed with caudal heel syndrome, the first step is to trim the feet properly and control the pain. Next, apply pour-in pads to support the hooves with Vettec Equi-Pak CS, which will engage the frog and heel again, and help the horse distribute its weight evenly across the entire hoof surface. The frog is the dark-coloured soft tissue on the bottom side of the foot that is triangular in shape, and stretches from the horse’s heel to midway toward the toe. The frog of the horse with caudal heel syndrome is often contracted and lacks circulation, so it’s important to reengage it. Equi-Pak CS is a fast-setting, soft pad material that is infused with copper sulfate to prevent bacteria from setting in. Because the frog is often sensitive after diagnosis, the copper sulfate formula helps serve as a preventative measure to keep the soft tissue healthy and infection-free.
The feet are a major component of a horse’s overall health. When weight is not evenly distributed, the resulting injury and lameness can affect the horse’s ability to do many daily activities. It’s important that a farrier trims the entire hoof correctly to eliminate the possibility of caudal heel syndrome. With a consistent and proper trimming regimen, the horse will be able to stand evenly and bear weight comfortably. Pour-in pads can provide additional support to maintain normal heel function.
More often than not, the horse will have caudal heel syndrome rather than navicular disease. Talk with your farrier or veterinarian about proper trimming and how pour-in pad materials can provide extra support and durable protection.
This information was contributed by Vettec Hoof Care.
For more information, please visit www.vettec.com.
Main Photo: The horse pictured above has an Equi-Pak pour-in pad to help support the hoof and engage the frog while it recovers from caudal heel syndrome.