A Snapshot – Contracted Heels and my Horse

If your horse has contracted heels he could well be lame or on the way to becoming lame. Read this article for more on this worrying condition.

Jeremy Ricketts
Jeremy Ricketts Posted on 9 January 2023
2 Min Read Checking horse hoof

Contracted heels are very common and frequently result in heel pain and associated lameness. So what are contracted heels?

Identifying Contracted Heel

Pick up your horse’s foot and look for any of the following :


  • A very concave and deep sole with a wasted frog
  • Narrow frog and heel bulb
  • The base of the heel bulb curves inwards
  • The front foot is narrow rather than well rounded
  • The rear foot is unusually narrow
  • Viewed from the side the hoof heel area curves inwards.


The next two pictures compare a badly contracted foot with a good foot.

Contracted Horse Heel

Contracted Heel

This contracted front foot has a very narrow frog. The foot is very concave and is long rather than round.

Healthy Horse Hoof

Healthy Foot

This foot is not contracted. Notice the wide healthy frog and heel bulb. The sole is concave without being deep.

Causes of Contracted Heel


  • Navicular syndrome affecting the hoof capsule shape.
  • Poor shoeing and trimming techniques.
  • Upright boxy feet frequently have contracted heels and atrification of the frogs
  • Inactivity


Contracted heels result in poor blood circulation within the foot and this exasperates the problem.

Why do Contracted Heels cause Problems

Two problems with contracted heels:


1. A normal foot expands slightly on contact with the ground and this helps absorb concussion, but this does not happen with contracted heels.


2. With contracted heels the frog and digital cushion are compressed and will not function effectively. Less concussion will be absorbed and less blood will be pumped around the foot capsule.


Helping a horse with Contracted Heels

Navicular syndrome is a chronic condition and will need ongoing farrier and veterinary assistance. For more on this read the snapshot on Low Heels and Horse Soundness.

A Snapshot – Low Heels and Horse Soundness

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Change your farrier if contracted heels are the result of your horse being incorrectly shod. He must be shod so that his heels can expand, and would benefit from having some time without being shod. Turning your horse out at grass results in more movement and increased blood circulation within the foot capsule. This and corrective trimming help to reverse the process.

Healthy Horse Hoof

Correctly Placed Nails

This well-shod horse naturally has round feet with good heels. Notice that the nails are placed to permit the heel area to expand on impact with the ground.

Sometimes Contracted Heels are not a Problem

As if by contradiction mules naturally have contracted heels that cause no problems. In addition, some horse breeds lean towards contracted upright feet and function well with no apparent issues.

All you need to know about SDFT Injury and your Horse

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Jeremy Ricketts

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Hello, I'm the resident writer here at The Rideout. I've been riding horses for the best part of... well my entire life! Over the years of owning, riding, competing and looking after horses I've built up a small wealth of information.

This site owes tribute to my many hours spent in and out of the saddle learning about the behaviours, needs, and quirks of these amazing animals. From basic care and grooming to advanced training techniques, I've honed my skills through years of hands-on experience.

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