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by Tab Pigg

Proper trimming and awareness of a horse’s sole thickness is vital to maintaining optimal hoof health. Whether a horse is growing back over-trimmed soles, is genetically predisposed, if it’s an older horse or other environmental factors, it’s important that hoof care professionals examine the conditions horses are in because it directly impacts sole health.

Similar to a fingernail on a fingertip, soles protect the feet from outside harm, and having thin soles is similar to having thin or even no fingernails, making the feet more vulnerable to injury or blisters on abrasive ground. In order to keep soles in healthy condition, hoof care professionals need to be aware of the conditions the horses are in, as every horse reacts differently to ground conditions.

If a horse naturally has thin soles, there are different methods they can apply to help a horse to regain sole thickness depending on its environment. .

How to Identify Thin Soles on a Horse

Lameness is a key sign of thin soles. If the condition isn’t diagnosed, horses are often uncomfortable walking around, especially on hard, abrasive surfaces, and some develop sole bruising. When these symptoms are prevalent, it’s important to examine the soles. Are the soles soft and flexible when touched?  Has the horse been exposed to changing conditions, such as wet-to-dry?

Symptoms of thin soles can be addressed so the condition can be maintained and corrected. Below are some examples of potential causes:

  • Changing Environments: A wet environment weakens the sole, and when the sole is moist, abrasion from rough surfaces wears down the sole quickly.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Some horses, like thoroughbreds, have thin soles naturally, so it’s important that hoof care professionals are aware of it and avoid overtrimming during routine visits and shoeing. This is especially crucial for racehorses, because their extremely active lifestyle can cause more wear on their already-thin soles.
  • Over Trimming: Hoof care professionals should be aware of whether a horse has thick or thin soles, and what conditions a horse resides in. This helps determine how much to trim and what padding is needed for the horse to remain comfortable and healthy.
  • Age: As a horse gets older, especially around the age of eight or nine, hoof growth slows down, and it becomes difficult for the sole thickness to keep up with the wear and tear of ground surfaces.

Thin Soled

Managing Soles

To regain and maintain sole thickness, pour-in pads can be a helpful way to protect the remaining sole that’s left and allow more sole to grow. When the soles are sealed off with pour-in pad material, they have a better chance of retaining thickness and re-growing. Along with allowing a sole to grow back, pour-in pads also act as a “fake sole” for the horse, which prevents abrasive ground surfaces from wearing down a horse’s actual sole. Pour-in pads protect the soles when they wear thin, similar to how a glove could protect the fingers in the absence of fingernails.

Depending on the moisture in a horse’s environment, there are different pour-in pad materials that can be beneficial. Vettec Equi-Pak is soft enough that it will not irritate the sensitive area if the horse is lame. Equi-Pak is fast-setting, soft pad material that bonds directly to the sole and frog, and improves the depth of the sole.

Equi-Pak CS is also a fast-setting soft instant pad material, and is infused with copper sulfate to minimize the chance of bacteria getting trapped within the hoof, which is common in moist environments. Equi-Pak CS provides extra protection and support during wet seasons, and also bonds to the sole to protect it from abrasion so that soles can continue to regrow.

In addition, Sole-Guard is a pour-in pad that stays bonded to the feet for 2-3 weeks when applied properly. Using this durable pour-in-pad material can help prevent sole bruising, and is ideal for active horses, such as ones that participate in endurance events.

Soles protect a horse’s hoof cavities, thus it’s vital they are maintained and examined thoroughly to determine a sole-maintaining regimen. If the soles are not examined, trimmed or maintained properly, it can cause lameness, affecting a horse’s ability to do many daily activities. With consistent, proper trimming and treatment, a horse will maintain healthy sole thickness.

Talk with a farrier or veterinarian about your horse’s soles, and how pour-in pad materials can be a helpful tool for gaining and maintaining sole thickness. 

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