Today on Texas Vet News I am going to talk about a condition in horses called sheared heels. When you look at the back of your horse's foot, both heels should be basically the same height on all feet. In some horses, one heel may be displaced higher than the other one, and this is called sheared heels. Sheared heals develop when the weight of the horse is not evenly divided between the inside of the foot and the outside of the foot. Eventually, the increased load on one side pushes the heel on that side higher, and the compression of this area leads to conditions that can lead to lameness, including quarter cracks. Dr. Steve O'Grady indicates in Equine Veterinary Education that true quarter cracks are cracks that develop at the coronary band. Although hoof cracks may occur at the quarters and begin at the solar surface, these are not true quarter cracks as a true quarter crack begins at the coronary band and extends downward. These cracks involve the full thickness of the hoof wall and cause lameness due to inflammation and infection. Also, these cracks are painful due to pinching of the hoof wall on the underlying tissue.
Treatment of sheared heels, especially if there is a quarter crack, can be difficult and requires a dedicated farrier and veterinarian. Basically, the foot should be trimmed level and then a bar shoe may be applied. The area under the crack is decreased in height and this will allow the higher heel to sink downward onto the shoe and stabilize the area. The horse needs to be taken out of training and as few nails used to apply the shoe as necessary to allow the heel to settle onto the shoe. Quarter cracks cannot be treated the same as cracks starting at the ground surface.