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My Zimbio

Does your horse have soul - opps i mean "SOLE".
your horses sole - yes his foot sole .
Saturday 29th of August 2009 09:01 AM


Hello,       is everyone surviving the heat.   Just had a 100* day in San Mateo Ca. and i'm glad i didn't have to be shoeing in it ..

     I've talked a bit about sole ( your horses sole of it's foot ) a few times before but not in any great detail.  I get questions/emails from people asking for advice on what to do with the bottom of their horses foot - the sole. It finally occured to me just how touchy an area/topic "The Sole" really is. After all if your horse is going to come up sore footed after a routine trim or shoeing it's usually going to have something to do with the sole - unless it's also a HOT nail or some type of real lameness - but for the most part the sole is the first place to suspect.  So let's just jump right in here.

     I just recieved the photo below by email and the owner of the horse is having some serious problems with the horse - she's also paying 500$ for 2 front shoes . So let's take a look see.

     Any time i'm either shoeing or just trimming a foot the very first place i look to is the sole of the foot. It's right there that i'm able to establish parameters of how much sole might i be able to remove in order for me to expose hoof wall that needs to be cut off. Without doing so / without seeing if there's sole to remove and hoof wall to cut off obviously i'll just be guessing how much hoof to cut or i might not even be cutting any hoof at all out of confusion - Point is we need to find out what the condition of the sole is in the process of trimming/shoeing. If i just ignore the sole and don't take any out 9 out of 10 times the foot will grow too long and that will increase the risk of permanent lameness - and that's the last thing i want.

     What i evaluate when i'm adressing sole issues is - is this horse thin or thick soled , can i tell if this horse is "Thick Skinned" and not going to feel ouchy after trimming, when was the last shoeing so i get a feel for how fast the horse grows foot and sole as well. What's the condition of the frog in relationship to the sole ( is the frog sunken in because of excess sole ), does the sole or frog look like it's ready to shed off or has it done so already. Right here the point i want to make is these issues are critical - very critical for quite a few reasons.

     1. The biggest issue is , There's really no way to foretell or predict at what point the horse would become ouchy footed by removing sole and trimming foot. Every horse is different in that regard . I've removed sole to the point where it's very thin and the horse never complains or takes an uneasy step and i've left so much sole you'd think nothing can penetrate it and the horse is ouchy - so really - your horse's pain barrier is the most difficult thing to evaluate.

     I think for the last reason above this is where the barefoot people come in and tell you "Never remove sole" if you do you're a bad guy. But i've seen all too often by following that procedure the horse comes up seriously lame ( as in joint /tendon/ligament issues ) because by not removing sole the foot becomes too long not enough hoof wall is being trimmed and now you have a permanently lame horse.

     Personally my opinion is to overcome the risk of permanent lameness adressing seriously - the sole of the foot is in order. So let's just look at this foot below as a simple example ok ? 

     My first clue this horse is carrying too much sole is looking at the depth the frog is recessed into the foot. You can see even at the point of the frog the sole is so thick the point is recessed by oh possibly a half inch.  That sole is extremely thick and since not all sole will shed itself the sole is just building up and up and up.

     Looking at the heel area i see the frog is really healthy - it's growing very well , but i also see the sole has extended far above the frog . Look at the right side of the photo at the heel area -  You can see easily 1/2 inch of hoof wall directly at the heel extending over the frog - and if you look at those grooves on each side of the frog  you see the bars of the foot are growing seriously up higher than the frog as well. Just these things alone tell me there's tons of sole on this horse and through experience i know a horse with this much sole growth usually won't have issues by taking some sole out. 

    Here's what's going on here though - it's always a question remember of will this horse get ouchy if i trim it's feet - if i don't trim the feet it could come up permanently lame. A little ouchy if far less of the two evils . So right here before we've taken any sole the problem is even if i got my hoof testers out to try and establish if this horse is "Tender footed in general " there's so much sole on this horse my testers will prove useless - so i still have no way of knowing this horse's sensitivity levels - UNLESS we know the history of the horse and the owner tells me "This horse comes up alittle bit ouchy after trims - or - this horse can't stand it after a trim and it always takes 2 weeks before i can ride it again.  See what i'm saying here ?

     There's one other tell tale sign below in the photo this horse is carrying extra ordinary amount of sole .   Do you see on the sides of the foot where there are what look like separation of the sole from the hoof wall ?  of course .  That tells me the sole has grown sooooo thick that it's actually not even adhering to the hoof wall anymore and is separating .  

     And just so you know more of the picture here - this horse has LONG TOE SYNDROME. Because the farrier is NOT removing any of the excess sole he has not been able to trim enough HOOF WALL at the toe so horse's angles are incorrect - the foot labors on the ground stretching tendons and i have a strong suspicion that's all what has caused this horse to become lame .  And now she's paying 500$ every shoeing just for front shoes because rather than take sole out and trim this horse correctly they're avoiding the whole sole issue and slapping pad after wedge pad after pad along with plastic coated shoes and more wedge pads add nauseum.


     So what would i do here.  i'd take my hoof nippers and hook the sole with the jaw of my nipper right in that groove around one side of the frog and the other side of my nipper jaw would be on the outside of the hoof - i'd give a slight tugg and that sole that can't shed just because sometimes they just don't would pop right off . I'd work my way around and at the heel areas ane pop all the extra sole right out.  At that point once removed and before using my hoof knife at all i'd start pressing around on the sole to see how thin or thick the natural / live sole is. If i can tell it's rather thin then i won't just start removing any more sole BUT since i DID take that shedding sole out now i'll have hoof wall to cut .

     I'd clean up any loose bits of sole on the bottom from popping the old sole out and i'd trim the excess hoof wall . The horse's angles are improved - reducing stress and stretch on tendons and improving breakover for the horse the way it walks.

     If this is going to be a barefoot horse this is where we find out if it's a candidate for actually being barefoot or would be better with shoes. NOT EVERY HORSE IS GOING TO BE ABLE TO GO BAREFOOT !!!   Just doesn't work that way -  You can try to condition a horse's feet to go barefoot for months and months and the horse will just never get past having ouchy feet - so you need to find out . If you don't want to go through the hassle of conditioning and conditioning and having an ouchy horse during the process then simply put shoes on the horse - get the shoeing done correctly and be done with it and not worry.

     Keep in mind also that some horses can even be ouchy on the soles of their feet even with shoes on - so some horses just need and have to have a hard pad inbetween the foot and the shoe for protection.  These are just part of the variables that need to be discovered for your or any particular horse. 

     There's one thing i left out that has an influence on your horse's ability to go barefoot or not and that's whether or not the horse is flat footed or the bottom of the foot has a NICE DISH SHAPE.  The dish shape is a concave surface to the bottom of the foot which RAISES itself farther from the ground surface - so the sole is farther away from sharp objects such as rocks - and this can be a GREAT THING - i actually much prefer to see horse's feet with a nice dish shape - most of the horses i work on with that shape have the least sensitivity issues - they're better candidates for the barefoot approach if that's what you prefer.

     On the other hand if your horse is somewhat flat footed where the sole is flat with the bottom of the hoof AND your horse is the Sensitive to pain type - well chances are you're gonna have a tough case and your horse most likely won't be able to go barefoot comfortably- EVER. Thoroughbreds are classic examples of this.

     So i hope this has helped you understand alittle more what it takes  to get things done correctly for your horse.  Understanding Sole will allow you to make better decisions for your horse's feet and that's just one more ounce of prevention you have in your arsenal to keep your beloved animal healthy happy and rideable for a long time to come.

     thank you for stoppin in - hope you enjoyed it.  you can find more info at my personal blog -

You may feel free to email me personally with a question or ask for advice at the following -    I have a free EBook coming out you can put your name and email in and request the book "Inside Horseshoeing Secrets of Lameness Prevention"...

 This is John Silveira "TheFootDoctor" Signing out - happy and safe riding and always remember to  


Response 1
Wednesday 2nd of September 2009 12:35:17 PM
Submitted by: Caren a/k/a Pony Rider
John, Thanks so much for such a clear explanation about soles and tender-footedness after trims. I've had questions about how much sole my farrier was taking off for years and why my POA would sometimes be sore after a trim. My farrier couldn't explain it so I could understand it, but you made it seem so simple! Now I can be pretty sure that my guy is doing the right thing for my ponies' soles. Thanks again for the reassurance!

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