A Contracted hoof is one whose form has been altered so that part or all of the hoof no longer expands on weight bearing or even becomes narrower than before. There are several different kinds of hoof contraction, each affecting a different part of the foot. It is often the case in any given contracted foot, that you will see combinations of contractions. These types of contraction are recognised by the Strasser Method where the unphysiological (contracting) force is acting on the hoof and the region of the corium in an abnormal way and must be freed from this pressure. All cases of the diagnosis of Navicular Syndrome involve contraction of the hoof.

Hoof Cuts

List of the major types of contraction found in hooves:

  • Bulb contraction
  • Heel contraction
  • Bar contraction
  • Coronet contraction
  • Underslung Heel contraction
  • Sole contraction

You can tell if you have a contracted foot if you run an imaginary line from the apex of the frog along the collateral grooves of the frog and extend the line past the bulbs. If these lines do not pass on the OUTSIDE curve of the heel bulbs (instead of cutting through them) the hoof is contracted.

Sometimes a single heel bulb will be contracted, while you will many cases where both are. Sole contraction is always present in conjunction with other types of contraction.
Shoe Contraction
One of the major problems in identifying a contracted hoof is that many farriers and veterinarians have no reference point in being able to say what is a normal or natural hoof. Almost all of their textbooks show as normal and <natural> feet that are contracted.

Major causes of contraction:

  • Shoeing of all kinds
  • Improper trimming
  • Lack of movement (usually through boredom or confinement)
  • Dehydration of the hoof capsule through lack of daily soaking in water
  • Injury
  • Incorrect terrain for a breed of horse
  • Neglect

Contraction can be reversed in horse hooves if properly done trimming is employed. With proper assessments and an understanding of what is involved, most hooves can be decontracted. To bring about decontraction however, a horse must have natural living conditions that include movement and sufficiently hard terrain to employ hoof mechanism. There are ways and means to correctly employ a proper trim so as to "open up" and decontract a hoof. This will include shortening the bars so that the too-concave, contracted sole can flatten out. It will also involve removing any lever forces (especially in the heels) and moving the weight bearing point of the heel as far toward its natural location as is possible. This allows the foot to regain its hoof mechanism and operate correctly as a circulatory blood pump which brings healing more efficiently.

It will take time for decontraction to become complete. It will involve frequent trimming to maintain a physiologically correct hoof shape and will in many cases involve having your horse abscess in its feet during the decontraction. It is advisable that you contact your closest Strasser Hoofcare Specialist (or student) for further advice or help in decontracting the feet of your horse.

Contributed By: C. Scott Kroeger