The Laminitis Clinic
Mead House
Wiltshire. SN15 4JA.

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i.e. deep digital flexor muscle contracture

Some chronic founder cases grow an excessive amount of heel horn due to a shortening of the distance between the origin and insertion of the deep digital flexor tendon muscle. This appears to happen, usually at the time of acute founder, in response to foot pain.

It means that you cannot correct an upright or malaligned phalangeal column by lowering the heels, as you would do in an unaffected case.

Lowering the heels on cases of contracture makes them very lame, they cannot get their heels down to bear weight and must hobble about on their toes. Some cases will lie down if their heels are reduced.

To avoid such a situation, which is painful for the horse and embarassing for the operator, I suggest you perform a toe wedge test before lowering the heels.

Obtain a few wedges about 5 or 10 degrees each which are horse shoe shaped, so that they can be fitted under the toe of the foot without pressing on the sole.

Place wedges under the toe of the affected foot. ( The height of the wedges should eventually be the same as the amount of heel you wish to remove ).
Have the contralateral limb lifted so the horse stands on the leg with the wedge under its toe. See if it becomes more uncomfortable compared to making the animal load the limb without the wedge under the toe. Feel the tension in the deep flexor tendon when the limb is loaded.

If the animal is less comfortable with the wedge under the toe and the loaded tendon becomes very tight then you probably have a case of contracture. If you drop the heels on this case, expect it to be worse.

Your alternatives are 1; leave the heels higher than you would like but high enough if the horse is reasonably comfortable or 2; resect the inferior check ligament or 3; divide the deep digital flexor tendon. Which of these you chose is a matter of clinical judgement, if in doubt cut the tendon.