There are many different hoof trimming and shoeing techniques for treatment of different conditions in horses. However, there have been few studies verifying the effects of these different methods. A recent review of several trimming and shoeing methods was presented at last years AAEP convention by Dr. Florian Buckner from Austria. One of the most common treatments used for caudal heel pain or navicular disease is heel wedges. Studies have revealed that by raising the heels, the movement of the coffin joint and the deep digital flexor tendon is substantially reduced. So raising the heels should help all diseases in which pain is caused when strain is placed on the deep digital flexor tendon. The force on the navicular bone is also decreased by using a heel wedge. However, force on the suspensory ligament is actually increased by using a heel wedge so using a heel wedge on a horse with a suspensory ligament injury could actually cause more damage.
The egg bar shoe, also used commonly, is also used for horses with pain in the navicular area. An analysis of the egg bar shoe versus a regular shoe did not show any difference in movement of the fetlock or coffin joint. However, the study was performed on a rubber surface and the authors indicate that the extended heels of an egg bar shoe may prevent the heels from sinking into soft ground. If the horse is used on soft ground, the egg bar may decrease hyperextension of the coffin joint, which would also decrease tension on the deep digital flexor tendon and decrease pressure on the navicular bone. Before using any of these methods on your horse, be sure and consult your veterinarian.
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