Mario Gutierrez
December 9 – Los Alamitos Race Course
Blabimir Wgt-122 Race 5 Maiden Special Weight
Mr. Pucci Wgt-124 Race 7 Allowance Optional Claiming $40,000
Rare Integrity Wgt-122 Race 8 Maiden Special Weight
December 10Los Alamitos Race Course
Irap Wgt-120 Race 6 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (Gr 1)
Radish Wgt-122 Race 7 Maiden Special Weight
Mopotism Wgt-120 Race 8 Starlet S. (Gr 1)
December 11Los Alamitos Race Course
Moonie Wgt-124 Race 3 Claiming $6,250
Eat My Dirt Wgt-122 Race 4 Maiden Claiming $20,000
Sir Studleigh Wgt-124 Race 6 Maiden Special Weight
Deep Consideration Wgt-124 Race 8 Starter Allowance $25,000
Patience Ofa Saint Wgt-122 Race 9 Maiden Special Weight

December 8 – Los Alamitos Race Course
Daring Darling finished 2nd beaten 1/2 length Race 5 Chart
Sly Humor finished 6th beaten 7 1/4 lengths Race 6 Chart

New Test Barn, Chain of Custody Recommendations Released

New Test Barn, Chain of Custody Recommendations Released

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) on Dec. 7 released a new set of test barn and chain of custody recommendations designed to encourage the use of best practices at racetracks.

The living document is a joint initiative of the RMTC and the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance and was announced at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program’s annual Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming in Tucson, Arizona.

The document, Test Barn Chain of Custody and Procedures: Considerations and Recommendations, includes best practice protocols covering:

  • Identification and supervision of horses to be tested;
  • Types of samples to be collected;
  • Chain of custody, security, identification, and recordkeeping within the test barn;
  • Sample collection and management;
  • Separate procedures for total carbon dioxide (TCO2) testing;
  • Out-of-competition sampling;
  • Facility design and equipment;
  • Surveillance; and
  • Personnel.

The document is available on the NTRA website.

“Pre- and post-race sampling at the racetrack test barn are the industry’s front line for ensuring fair, safe racing through medication and substance integrity,” said Steve Koch, executive director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance.

Added Dionne Benson, DVM, executive director and chief operating officer of the RMTC, “There are so many details that go into test barn and chain of custody process that, if not properly observed, can call your testing into question. This comprehensive list of recommendations will help protect tracks, horsemen and customers.”

The document has been adopted as Exhibit 6 of the 2017 NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance’s Code of Standards, which becomes effective Jan. 1, 2017.

Not Your Grandmother’s Bedding: Horse Bedding Alternatives

Not Your Grandmother's Bedding: Horse Bedding Alternatives

Shredded paper products are lightweight, economical, highly absorbent, and allergen-, dust-, and odor-free. However, paper is highly flammable and it’s possible for ink to rub off on lighter-colored horses and on stall and stable walls.

Photo: Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

10+ alternatives to consider when bedding down your horse’s stall

Not so long ago (for some of us, anyway), the mention of stall bedding brought to mind just one image: a warm, deep—but not so absorbent—cushion of golden straw that rustled with the horse’s every movement. And although straw (most commonly the unused stems of barley, oat, rye, or wheat crops) has historically sufficed for both horse (and even human) bedding, times are starting to change. There are many, many more bedding options available for your horse’s stall.

The ideal bedding is:

  • Absorbent
  • Comfortable
  • Conveniently disposable
  • Cost-effective
  • Dry
  • Dust- and allergen-free
  • Easy to remove manure and urine from
  • Environmentally friendly (produced and shipped with minimal environmental impact and compostable)
  • Readily available
  • Sanitary (free of pathogens and other harmful substances)
  • Storage-space saving
  • Unappetizing to horses

Over the years, the list of bedding materials has grown to include a host of products that offer varying degrees of each of these qualities. Some are widely available, while others are byproducts of local or regional agriculture and industry and, so, are more geographically limited.

Traditional, widely available bedding materials include sand, shavings, sawdust, and pelleted wood products that fluff up quickly when walked on and/or lightly sprayed with water, forming a cushion from which caretakers can pick out soiled and wet spots easily with a manure fork. New materials can be added as needed, cutting down on the frequency of labor-intensive stall stripping.

Read on to learn about more options you might already know about and use, as well as some that might be new to you. Some can easily fly solo, and others work best when combined—either as a base layer or mixed in—with one of the more traditional bedding materials.

Coir Husk

Made from shredded coconut husk and fiber, coir is very absorbent.

Photo: iStock

Made from shredded coconut husk and fiber, coir is very absorbent. So absorbent, in fact, it’s also used on toxic (oil, etc.) spills. Coir decomposes quickly and is dust-free and unpalatable to horses. Coir reduces the odors and air contaminants associated with dustier beddings, as well as the excessive moisture associated with less absorbent materials.

Online reviewers, however, report that when the raw fiber is baled, it’s very difficult to spread, making disk and pellet forms more desirable. Other downsides are where its sourced (tropical climates where coconuts grow) and the consequent expense of import.

Corn Cobs

Found in agricultural regions everywhere, but most commonly in the Midwest, corn cobs and stems make an outstanding bedding if they are crushed, ground, or shredded. Online reviewers say this option is softer, much less dusty, and more absorbent than wood pellets. “Clumpability” results in quicker stall cleaning and less product waste. And reviewers note that although your horse might nibble on the bedding initially, he’ll usually quit after a day or so.

One ground product compacted into pellet form composts in about six months, which compares to wood shavings, which can take up to two years. Evidenced by an online video, at a ratio of 1 cup of water to 1 cup of product, the corn cob pellets absorb 99% of water in 34 seconds, whereas wood pellets, coarse-ground corn cobs, and wood shavings didn’t fully absorb the water even after 50 seconds, 1 minute 10 seconds, and 1 minute 25 seconds, respectively. A 40-pound bag costs about $6.


The obvious problem with using hay for bedding is that your horse is bound to eat it. You also lose the ability to monitor his feed intake.

Other than the nutritional factor, hay is pretty much equal to straw in its bedding qualities, but you can bet it’ll be more expensive.

Hemp is soft, lightweight, dust-free, and absorbent, but it has a higher up-front cost than some other bedding materials.

Photo: Courtesy American Hemp LLC


Although hemp is a cannabis plant, the type used for bedding is called industrial hemp and differs from the marijuana plant in its almost-nonexistent THC content, as well as in its usefulness for commercial and industrial applications. However, many states continue to prohibit growing hemp for any use. In 2015 eight states allowed hemp growing: Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont, and 20 more were creating or revising their hemp-growing laws.

Hemp is more highly renewable than timber products. Arch Kingsley of Long Leaf Stables, in Camden, South Carolina, has used hemp bedding, made by shredding the “hurd,” or inner layer of stalk, for more than a year. He says it’s nearly dust-free, very absorbent (manufacturers say it can sponge up about four times its weight), and makes a superb bedding for his horses. Kingsley also attributes his horses’ clean respiratory bills of health to his hemp-bedded stalls.

The bedding is soft, lightweight, and unpalatable, and although it’s more expensive up front due to being sourced primarily from Europe and Canada, Kingsley says it lasts a lot longer than other bedding types.

“It does require a finer technique when mucking a stall,” he says. “We pick the piles and always remove the wet spot. But with hemp, you can take the less saturated material and mix it back in with the drier areas. If you use it conservatively, it’s more economical. And it’s low in acid (so has a more balanced pH) and quick to compost. It supports the health of the horses and the stable.”

The cost of hemp bedding varies from $23 per 33-pound bag to $510 for a 30-bag pallet ($17/bag), plus shipping. Half and full truckloads of 480 and 1,000 bags are also available.


Chopped mature leaves are pretty much free and can make a satisfactory bedding, but they can become compacted and heavy when wet. Also, be sure not to use any part of black walnut trees, as they’re toxic to horses.

Paper Products

Shredded paper products, including corrugated cardboard and phone books, are lightweight, economical, highly absorbent, and allergen-, dust-, and odor-free. They’re available bagged or baled, and horses won’t eat them. However, paper is highly flammable. The other downside is the possibility of ink rubbing off on lighter-colored horses and on stall and stable walls. Although many inks these days are nontoxic vegetable dyes, cleanup can be an issue, as can the blowability factor in windy locations when dry and the product’s weight when wet.

On the plus side, paper’s high carbon content tends to reduce odors, and paper composts readily. It’s widely available in most areas. Cost varies according to the product’s source and processing.

Peat Moss

Reviews are mixed on this natural product, but most agree that peat’s time as horse bedding has come and gone. Natural in this case doesn’t equate with environmentally friendly; peat comprises the lower layers of living sphagnum moss (like what you buy at the craft store to line the wire plant containers on your patio) that has decomposed underground in wet, boggy conditions for thousands of years. The living moss has to be scraped away to mine the peat, and doing so damages the wetlands the moss grows in and disrupts the bog’s biodiversity.

Peat moss is also low on the absorbency scale, and its dark color makes it difficult to differentiate wet and dirty spots from unsoiled areas. Some users report a high incidence of hoof problems with peat use.

On the upside, peat reviewers say it’s low in dust, minimizing respiratory issues, and it cuts down on odors. It’s cushy for your horses, and its fine fibers readily compost—and most any gardener would be eager to take your waste for fertilizer. Three cubic feet costs about $12 at home improvement stores.

Pelleted Straw

Wheat straw compressed into pellets is reportly twice as absorbent as paper bedding products, absorbing 300% of its weight in moisture. Users gave its dustiness mixed online reviews. It’s steam-processed at 195°F, reducing bacteria, molds, and yeast and is also packaged for small animals. It costs about $9 per 30 pounds.

Reused Composted Bedding

Composted bedding, seen being turned here, is the new kid on the block.

Photo: Courtesy Green Mountain Technologies

Researchers have recently documented improvements in allergy- and respiratory-related conditions in horses bedded on reused composted bedding. “It’s a fairly new concept,” says Hannah Mueller, DVM, of Cedarbrook Veterinary Clinic, in Snohomish, Washington. “We were fortunate enough to use it on trial, and my hope is that it gains in popularity.”

The developer of reused composted bedding uses several types of systems, depending on a facility’s size and needs. Moisture and aeration, which are composting fundamentals, produce heat that destroys harmful microbes and within two weeks turns waste products—whether food or agricultural wastes—into reusable compost that makes excellent bedding, says Mueller.

She studied three hospitalized horses: one with bedding-caused hives, one with a tracheotomy due to an upper airway obstruction, and one with equine asthma (historically referred to as recurrent airway obstruction, or RAO, or heaves). All three improved when the bedding in their stalls was changed from pelleted wood to reused composted bedding.

The hivey horse’s skin symptoms resolved within a week, with new hives discontinuing within just a few days. “Instead of aerosolizing the allergens, the composted bedding kept them down to a reasonable level so the horse’s respiratory system was happy,” says Mueller. “I was expecting the other horses’ breathing issues to resolve, but this horse’s improvement was an unexpected surprise.”

The horse with the tracheotomy produced significantly less mucous, and his condition improved greatly within a week. Mueller saw the same scenario in the horse with equine asthma. “The composted bedding kept the dust down and improved breathing, keeping airways from constricting and causing an asthma attack,” she says.

“It was important anecdotal evidence, and I’d like to see it in a double-blind study to prove the results we had,” she adds. “Startup costs are high, but once installed, the system saves money over time. It’s more environmentally friendly and beneficial for the horses because it holds a level of moisture in the bedding that keeps dust and allergens down.”

Seed Hulls and Plant Byproducts

The thin seed coats (as opposed to hard shells or pods) and other byproducts from cottonseed, oats, peanuts, rice, wheat, and other agricultural crops are generally available in the geographic area in which they’re grown (rice on the West Coast and in the Southwest; wheat in the Northwest and Great Plains; peanuts in the South). Mixing the lighter hulls with a more absorbent bedding keeps the surface dry, while moisture drains into the heavier layer and can be lifted out. The combination composts relatively slow, however.

Online reviewers say rice hulls dry out quickly (so on the flip side, they aren’t super absorbent); are easy to use because the dry hulls readily fall through the muck rake; result in fewer hoof problems; and as a bonus, put a great shine on horses’ coats. However, horses reportedly like to eat rice hulls (so, an impaction worry) unless mixed with a less palatable material or soiled.

One example of a seed hull product, made from rice hulls, contains diatomaceous earth and montmorillonite clay to increase absorbency and combat odors and flies and costs $9-14 per 50-pound (6 cubic feet) bag.

Take-Home Message

When evaluating various types of bedding for your particular horse(s) and operation, keep in mind that the less product used, the less you’ll have to purchase, store, move, and dispose of. To select the best bedding for your (and your horse’s) needs, evaluate those factors along with the health risks and benefits of all the products available in your area.

About the Author

Diane E. Rice

Diane E. Rice earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism from the University of Wisconsin, then melded her education and her lifelong passion for horses in an editorial position at Appaloosa Journal. She currently works as a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and photographer and has served on American Horse Publications’ board of directors. Rice spends her spare time gardening, reading, serving in her church, and with her daughters, grandchildren, and pets.

Los Alamitos Thoroughbred Daily Results and Activity


Thursday, December 8
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Maiden Claiming – $30,000 $19,000 Overnight Overnight Overnight
Race 2 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $17,000 Overnight Overnight Overnight
Race 3 Claiming – $6,250 $12,000 Overnight Overnight Overnight
Race 4 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $17,000 Overnight Overnight Overnight
Race 5 Claiming – $16,000 $17,000 Overnight Overnight Overnight
Race 6 Maiden Special Weight $45,000 Overnight Overnight Overnight
Race 7 Starter Allowance – $16,000 $20,000 Overnight Overnight Overnight
Race 8 Claiming – $8,000 $14,000 Overnight Overnight Overnight

Early Entries

Saturday, December 10 Overnight
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $6,250 $13,000
Race 2 Claiming – $16,000 $17,000
Race 3 Starter Optional Claiming – $50,000 $28,000
Race 4 Claiming – $20,000 $22,000
Race 5 Allowance Optional Claiming – $20,000 $46,000
Race 6 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity $300,000
Race 7 Maiden Special Weight $45,000
Race 8 Starlet S. $300,000
Race 9 Maiden Claiming – $30,000 $19,000
Sunday, December 11 Overnight
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $12,500 $16,000
Race 2 Maiden Claiming – $30,000 $19,000
Race 3 Claiming – $6,250 $13,000
Race 4 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $17,000
Race 5 Claiming – $16,000 $17,000
Race 6 Maiden Special Weight $45,000
Race 7 Allowance Optional Claiming – $20,000 $46,000
Race 8 Starter Allowance – $25,000 $27,000
Race 9 Maiden Special Weight $45,000

Final Entries

Saturday, December 10
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $6,250 $13,000
Race 2 Claiming – $16,000 $17,000
Race 3 Starter Optional Claiming – $50,000 $28,000
Race 4 Claiming – $20,000 $22,000
Race 5 Allowance Optional Claiming – $20,000 $46,000
Race 6 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity $300,000
Race 7 Maiden Special Weight $45,000
Race 8 Starlet S. $300,000
Race 9 Maiden Claiming – $30,000 $19,000


New Stride Thoroughbred Adoption Society

Dear New Stride Friends,

New Stride Thoroughbred Adoption Society is a non-profit charitable organization that has been re-homing former thoroughbred race horses for the past 14 years. With the help of 25 passionate volunteers, we have found homes for over 140 horses since 2002, the majority of which raced at Hastings Racecourse. Just this past year alone, five of the horses we’ve supported have been successfully adopted and are thriving in their new home environments, as we continue to accept candidates to maintain a strong group of 12. We don’t simply take in horses and adopt them out, we provide re-habilitation and re-training and find new homes and new careers (with the appropriate adopter) for these exceptional athletes.

We are accredited through the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), and have qualified for grants from the TAA, Thoroughbred Charities of America and Blue Horse Charities. The aforementioned groups have very rigorous application, review and approval processes.

We know how difficult the business of horse racing can be, and know that it’s for the love of the game and the love of the horses that an organization like New Stride can continue to flourish in the local community. Our BC racehorses deserve a new career or a pleasant retirement for all of the joy and excitement they provide to us, and the only way we can continue to re-train and re-house these wonderful animals is through donations.

Please consider a donation to New Stride to assist us with continuing to find race horses new homes and new careers. All donations are 100% tax deductible, and we will issue tax receipts by year-end. You can mail your cheque to New Stride Thoroughbred Adoption Society, Attention: Lois Clough, 98-248 Street, Aldergrove, BC V4W 2H1, or visit and click on “Donate.”

As all-around horse lovers, I know you understand the day-to-day cost of looking after these fine animals. We have had to limit the number of horses in the program due to financial constraints, and are hopeful that with additional funds raised, we will not have to turn any horses away.

On behalf of the New Stride team, I want to thank you for your consideration and also express a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported New Stride in the past.


Bill Randall, President


 ew Stride Thoroughbred Adoption Society

E-mail: [email protected]

Phone: 604-671-3077

After coming to New Stride in October of 2013, we’re pleased to share that Awesome Honey’s new owner, Frank V., is training this beautiful Thoroughbred to become a polo star and she’s doing extremely well. While she has yet to play in a game, Frank has umpired a slow chukka on her to get more and more familiar. She is fully tacked up for polo and quite stoical.   Continuing to train together on a regular basis, Frank is hoping to start her in a full game next season. They are quite the pair – best of luck you two!

This magnificent off the track Thoroughbred has as many fans from his racing days as he has in his new life. Monster came to New Stride in May of 2014, and was adopted by ‘adoring mom’ Morgan R. in March of 2015. Morgan and Monster have opened for the Abbotsford Agrifair during the anthems, and Monster has also been ridden by Morgan’s friend Anya at a show in Langley. Morgan says, “Monster has been an absolute blessing. Wonderful to train, so fun to ride. There’s nothing he won’t do for me, his best quality is his heart.”

Applications Open for 2017 Thoroughbred Makeover

The Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) has announced the opening of trainer applications for the 2017 $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover.

Approved trainers will acquire recently retired Thoroughbred racehorses and introduce them to second careers. Disciplines offered are barrel racing, competitive trails, dressage, eventing, field hunters, freestyle, polo, show hunter, show jumper, and working ranch.

Horses and their trainers will compete for $100,000 in prize money and the title of America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred on the first weekend of October at the Kentucky Horse Park. The event includes seminars, demonstrations, sponsor fair, and a live-streamed finale featuring the top three horses in each discipline.

Professional, amateur, and junior trainers can apply whether they have acquired an eligible horse or not. Applicants must demonstrate expertise in at least one of the ten Makeover disciplines through competition highlights, references, and optional video links.

“This event is about the trainers,” said RRP President Steuart Pittman. “They are the key to securing the futures of these horses, and they are the ones who create the performances that inspire our audience. We spent the weeks since this year’s event reviewing evaluations and interviewing judges, volunteers, and competitors. We believe that our updated formats for each discipline will be popular.”

Approved trainers will acquire eligible Thoroughbreds through whatever source they choose or can ride under contract with an owner. Horses must have raced or had a published work after July 1, 2015 and must not have started training for a second career before the first of December.

The 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover was attended by 2,500 spectators and live-streamed by more than 10,000. An expanded marketing strategy is expected to grow the event in 2017. It takes place Oct. 5-8, 2017 at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Thoroughbred Makeover Links:

Hot Topics in Hoof Care, Part 4: The Abnormal Horse Hoo

Hot Topics in Hoof Care, Part 4: The Abnormal Horse Hoof

Underrun heels are relative to the toe’s angle. The result are low heels and, often, a decreased hoof angle.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

With a sound understanding of hoof biomechanics, “normal” farriery, and imaging in place, the workshop turned toward managing common hoof problems. Several panelists addressed the abnormalities from their unique perspectives.

Club Feet

Definition and causes A club foot is upright conformation associated with a flexural deformity (a musculotendinous unit shortening) of the DIPJ. “The condition is a result of a contracture or shortening of the musculotendinous unit of the deep digital flexor tendon and muscle,” Silverman said.

Steve O’Grady, DVM, of Virginia Therapeutic Farriery, in Keswick, explained that a club foot will be upright and have a broken forward hoof-pastern axis (the hoof angle is steeper than the angle to the pastern, creating a change of angle at the coronary band); uneven growth rings; concave dorsal hoof wall; poor hoof wall consistency; and generally a recessed frog.

Flexural deformities associated with club feet can be congenital (a foal is born with it) or acquired, he added. Acquired flexural deformities in foals can result from genetic predisposition; nutrition and related rapid bone growth; excessive exercise causing foot soreness; conformation (long limbs and short necks that cause grazing-posture problems); and limb pain.

Club feet range from mild (slightly upright, left) to severe (dorsal wall of 80 degrees or more, right).

Photo: Courtesy Stephen E. O’Grady, DVM, MRCVS

Veterinarians categorize club feet into three grades: mild (slightly upright), moderate (dorsal wall is clearly steep and concave), and severe (dorsal wall of 80 degrees or more).

The club foot’s biomechanics are fairly straightforward, Parks said. “It’s a change in the balance between extensor and flexor moments,” he said, meaning the flexor tendon is exerting more force on the foot but the weight doesn’t change, so the “tightness” of the back tendon lifts the heel and places the horse on its toe.

Management “The treatment goal is to tip the equilibrium between extensor and flexor moments toward the extensor moment, either by increasing the extensor moment (e.g., toe extension) or decreasing the flexor moment (e.g., cutting the check ligament),” Parks said.

Detecting club feet early in a horse’s life and reaching that equilibrium with treatment and management might lead to more successful outcomes. “Look for early indications of distal limb distortion,” Silverman advised. “Recognition after the condition is well-established will lead to lifelong adaptive shoeing.”

In foals with congenital flexural deformities, Silverman listed the following treatment options:

  • Restricted exercise;
  • Physical therapy;
  • Bandaging;
  • Protecting the foal’s toe from excessive wear; and
  • Administration of oxytetracycline, which relaxes muscles, including those associated with the flexor tendon.

For acquired flexural deformities, Silverman offered various treatment options:

  • Limited exercise;
  • Cautious use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications;
  • Oxytetracycline administration;
  • Desmotomy of the assessory ligament of the DDFT (a surgical severing that releases tension); and
  • Toe protection to prevent wear.

For trimming and shoeing the club foot, O’Grady recommended realigning the distal phalanx within the hoof capsule, repositioning breakover to decrease DDFT tension and GRF on the dorsal hoof wall. He also advised providing heel elevation when necessary to further decrease DDFT tension and help redistribute weight-bearing from the toe to the entire hoof.

Mismatched Feet

Definition A horse’s front feet should be similar in shape and overall conformation. Its hind feet, while different from the front feet, should also be similar to each other. Mismatched feet, as the name implies, means the set (usually the front), are not the same.

Mismatched feet–more common in front than hind limbs–can lead to lameness and gait irregularities.

Photo: Courtesy Stephen E. O’Grady, DVM, MRCVS

“Mismatched feet are common in the front feet,” said farrier Bob Pethick, CJF, APF, of Bedminster Forge, in Califon, New Jersey. “Hind feet are affected as well, but not usually to the same degree.”

Whether front or behind, the differences can lead to lameness or gait irregularities. One example is a horse with one front club foot and one normal front foot. This horse might seem to step short on its more upright side, Pethick said.

Management Careful farriery that addresses each foot’s function and needs can improve stride timing and overall soundness. This is especially important, Pethick said, in horses such as show hunters, in which tiny differences between high-quality animals can mean the difference between a blue ribbon and no ribbon.

Underrun Heels

Definition A horse’s heels are “underrun” when the dorsal hoof angle is 5 degrees greater (more upright) than the plantar (back) angle, Silverman explained. That means underrun heels are relative to the toe’s angle. The result are low heels and, often, a decreased hoof angle.

Whatever the reason for underrun heels, said Parks, they migrate toward the hooves’ COP. When that happens, the heels bear more weight and collapse, lowering the hoof angle and placing tension on the DDFT.

Additional Resources

Read about other topics covered during the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Podiatry Workshop:

Silverman described two concerns veterinarians have about horses with underrun heels: “First, what are the long-term effects on the horse’s hoof capsule? And second, what are the effects on the biomechanics of the distal limb? For every 1 degree of lost solar angle (the angle between the hoof sole and the coffin bone), there is an approximate 4% increase in stress on the navicular bone and DDFT.”

Management Farrier Patrick Reilly, of the University of Pennsylvania, in Kennett Square, presented ways to manage underrun heels and their associated long toes and low heels. He explained that farriery textbooks have long offered just two options:

  • Cutting down the heels as far as possible. Hopefully, you can maintain a parallel hoof pastern axis. If not, you can use wedges to bring the axis back into balance.
  • Lowering the heels, applying wedges, and using frog and sole support to reduce weight-bearing on the heels.

“The problem is that these farrier treatments are not likely to ‘fix’ the orientation of the hoof’s growth,” Reilly said. “This is supported by the frequent occurrence of underrun heels—50% of front feet fit the definition of underrun heels. If the farrier treatments mentioned in the textbooks worked, we wouldn’t see this condition with such frequency.”

The nature of underrun heels is that the heels are growing in a more horizontal direction than the toe, so growth is not symmetrical, Reilly stated. The longer the shoeing interval, the more this becomes a potential problem because the weight-bearing surface migrates forward. Shoeing the horse more frequently is one way to minimize this effect.

Reilly suggests shoeing these horses as frequently as every three weeks, as opposed to the traditional six- to eight-week hoof care schedule most horse owners keep.

Often, he said, a farrier must shorten the heel to address the problem. The challenge is maintaining a positive plantar angle (the hind angle of the coffin bone within the foot—the goal is to keep the back of the coffin bone higher than its toe), which might require wedges or wedged shoes, he said. “I think it’s a better goal to manage these hooves and to focus on the soundness of the horse rather than the hoof morphology (form),” he said. “Obviously, many horses maintain soundness with underrun heels.”

Sheared Heels

Definition Parks offered a description of this abnormality from his veterinary perspective and understanding of hoof biomechanics. Sheared, or uneven, heels are a deformation of the hoof capsule with proximal (upward) displacement of one heel in relation to the other on the same foot. O’Grady added that sheared heels generally have a disparity in height of 0.5 cm or more.

Sheared heels are a deformation of the hoof capsule with upward displacement of one heel in relation to the other on the same foot.

Photo: Courtesy Bob Pethick

The condition usually results from or is associated with:

  1. Abnormal limb conformation;
  2. A deformation or change in hoof wall growth rate on the displaced side; or
  3. A narrow (contracted) heel on the affected side.

A simple—or at least commonly believed—explanation is that the hoof’s COP has moved back toward the displaced quarter/heel (remember, in the normal hoof the COP is placed in the hoof’s center), causing hoof capsule distortion and medial-to-lateral hoof imbalance. While a misplaced COP likely plays a role, Parks said he believes the cause is more complex—a compounding of conformation, trimming, type of athletic work, shoeing, and other unknown variables.

“Are sheared heels the cause of lameness or just an indicator of an imbalance of internal stress?” Parks asked.

O’Grady believes sheared heels lead to a hoof capsule deformation that is the hoof’s adaptation to limb conformation, such as a rotational limb deformity (e.g., such as what leads to a toed-out stance). In this scenario, a limb abnormality causes uneven loading of the hoof, which leads to distorted hoof growth and a displaced heel. The overloaded heel becomes more upright, which O’Grady said can cause:

  • Decreased ground surface on the affected side;
  • Contracted heels;
  • A narrow frog;
  • A flare developing on the opposite side of the foot; and
  • The overloaded heel rolling under.

He described a field study in which researchers lowered one heel on 25 normal horses every 30 days over a three-month period. “Sheared heels couldn’t be induced in any horse,” he said.

O’Grady explained that sheared heels can predispose horses to related lamenesses, which owners, veterinarians, and farriers can find frustrating. “It’s extremely rare to see a quarter crack without a concurrent sheared heel,” he said, also noting a relationship to bruising, white line separation, corns (bruising on the hoof’s posterior sole at the buttress, which is the angle between the wall and the bar—the inward folds of the hoof wall, located on either side of the frog), and a fissure at the base of the frog, with thrush secondary to the fissure.

Pethick further noted that, in his experience, moisture from wet environments increases hoof distortion in horses with a propensity toward sheared heels.

Management Options for managing the condition are controversial, said O’Grady. He recommends trimming the foot to increase ground surface under the displaced heel and, when possible, to improve foot conformation. “The trim and shoe should unload the section of the foot that’s displaced,” he said.

In general, Pethick believes a barefoot hoof—which benefits from added frog and sole support—distorts less than a traditionally shod foot. For shod horses with sheared heels, he suggests reducing excess heel height if possible, floating the displaced heel quarter (unweighting so a small amount of space remains between the hoof and the shoes) to allow for growth, and using frog support, such as hoof pour-ins, pads, and/or bar shoes.

“Environment and the horse’s discipline can require different approaches to achieving the same goal,” Pethick added, noting that these horses do best when kept on dry ground.

About the Author

Michelle N. Anderson, Digital Managing Editor

Michelle Anderson serves as The Horse’s digital managing editor. In her role, she produces content for our web site and hosts our live events, including Ask the Vet Live. A lifelong horse owner, Anderson competes in dressage and enjoys trail riding. She’s a Washington State University graduate (Go Cougs!) and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in business administration and extensive coursework in animal sciences. She has worked in equine publishing since 1998. She currently lives with her husband on a small horse property in Central Oregon.