Don't TOUCH That Sole Callus!

"He pointed out that the sole callous area (the areas of the sole closest to the edges of the hoof) was *too high* and was hitting the ground first, instead of the hoof wall hitting the ground the first.

So he took his hoof-knife and pared away a a few slivers of sole area, and underneath the area he took off was bright red bruising. He said that the sole *itself* was causing bruising from being too high and putting pressure on the foot."


The above statement coming from a farrier who was asked to check a barefoot trim. 


He's ... wrong. 

The sole callus area (see the grey area around the hoofwall on the above illustration) is SUPPOSED to be hitting the ground and supportive of the weight of the loading hoof. 

The wall and white line area (sole callus) is the weight bearing area of the foot. 

Most farriers will rasp this area to fit to the shoe. Well, we ain't fittin' shoes so please, please, please do NOT rasp or knife that sole callus away! 

See the blue outlined area?  THAT is sole callus ... do NOT trim that away!  That is there to help share the weight bearing load the hoof receives during movement. It's like a 'natural shoe' ... and it BELONGS there! 

If the hooves are not maintained properly then sometimes that area will grow excessively and will need some skimming down. But, for the most part, on healthy hooves, that area will build and that's exactly what is needed ... the 'natural shoe' on a barefooted horse. 

Here's another hoof with a nice sole callus:  Can you see it? Outlined in red. 


This is something that must be built on a hoof that is recently transitioned.  Lots of hand walking on a tarred surface every day will go much further in building up callus than will artificial sole toughening products. Hand wallking will toughen up the hoof as a whole as well as help the horse to balance and build a sturdy, strong, functional hoof. 

Now, another area that is mistakenly called "sole callus" is the area between the apex of the frog and the toe wall ... this is, simply, callused 'sole' ... or, sole. (see top illustration) ... THIS AREA is most important to the hoof as it protects the coffin bone. It should NEVER be trimmed down by either rasp (in which case one would be rasping a flat sole) or by knife. When trimmed it not only thins the sole but also allows closer access to the ground by the coffin bone in the foot. The healthy hoof will exfoliate whatever excess sole that is not needed by itself.  One may peel off the sole that is trying to exfoliate but if it is strongly adhered then just leave it alone. The hoof needs it.

The sole corium is made up of terminal papillae. This means the papillae that grows sole tissue will stop growing when the sole is about 1/4 " thick and will then begin to fold up on itself to form that awesome callus. 

Once again, the hoof exhibits its extraordinary capabilities of helping the horse to survive. No hoof, no horse. 

So the next time your farrier or trimmer want to start cutting into the sole callus of your horse's hoof, tell them STOP!  Your horse needs that stuff on its hoof! 



 Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:




Vicki — no, you don’t sound like a dummy at all! :) But someone who wants to learn and has an open mind. That’s always a good thing.

Each hoof, as you may know, is an individual hoof and must be trimmed as such. Depending on the way the horse moves, what kind of environment the horse lives in, how it’s ridden and on what type of terrain, plus diet and husbandry, conformation, etc. … all play a vital part in how the hoof grows and wears naturally. Hooves that are well maintained on regular trim cycles or move enough on varied terrain to trim themselves won’t need excessive trimming of any part of the hoof. After that we get into rehabilitative trimming of imbalanced, overgrown hooves and that’s a whole ‘nother ball o’wax. ;) That’s where good, knowledgable and experienced hoof provision comes in.

Gwenyth Santagate September 26, 2017

Mr. Fye. While I respect your 10 years seniority as a farrier to my 30 years as a trimmer of sound, working, barefooted horses with 20 of those being specialized in rehabilitative of pathological hooves, I cannot wrap my head around why you would say “what you sell as good hoof care is total bull shit” without addressing specifics to which you might be referring? Perhaps, then, we could have a respectful discussion about it all. Care to share?

The sole callus is the area of the distal hoofwall in towards the center of the hoof for about an inch that includes the white line. The wall AND the white line area are the major weight bearing structures of the hoof. Are we in disagreement with that? Healthy, callused, well balanced, sound hooves will form a ‘natural horseshoe’ in that sole callus area.

There are quite a few important reasons for this sole callus. Gene Ovnicek explains this nicely here:

But, then perhaps you might also disagree with him?

Gwenyth Santagate September 26, 2017

I’d like to be tactful with my response but being a Farrier
For over 40 years what you sell as good hoof care is
total bull shit. What you’re calling the sole callous is outer
horn or hoof wall. Also bruising is caused by the soul
contacting hard ground or stones which often turn into
abscess which start at the bruise site. Anyone who
has drained an abscess can tell you it surely didn’t
start at the coronary band. Please stop spreading your
fantasies to unknowing folks that that believe your crap

Rich Fye September 21, 2017

Short of sounding like a dummy, and just getting started with riding, but if you leave the sole callus, how is the hoof trimmed if it’s to long?

Vicki September 19, 2017

There is so much to learn about hooves. My daughter and I have been racing endurance barefoot for the last 11 years. We are almost always in the top 3 and one of our horses almost always gets BC. Our last 2 50’s have been close to 4hr 30 min. My horses have never ever had a toe callus. In the winter ( we average 275" of snow) you could put a golf ball under their hooves , the concavity is so deep, they would never feel the balls. In the summer when we race, their soles are almost flat, hardly any concavity, no toe callus. Environment is huge. What my horses hooves look like living, racing in the Midwest, is totally different from horses feet in other parts of the country. Knowing what works for your horse and knowing that environment can affect the bottom of their hooves is a big step in getting sound barefoot horses

wendy Maas September 11, 2017

Hi Tracy … sounds like its a ‘whole horse’ thing, truly. Soft hooves, flat soles, chipped, cracking .. while I’d love to say its strictly a mechanical issue with trimming, the horn of the hoof is produced only as strong and healthy as the diet being fed combined with the mechanics and husbandry. Please email to me if you’d like to discuss this further. I can help you with this but it really needs an individual assessment. :)

Gwenyth Santagate July 04, 2017

What is the cause of flat doles, chipped and cracked hoof walls. Soft soles.
I have had a horse return that wasn’t ridden. A pet. Overweight. It this case my vet ordered sole hardener. And shoes for 6 mo. I did take the horse off all grain. Only hay and was on a poor pasture, little grass; moving on 25 acres. But he’s been moved to a new home that has a corral. :(. Your opinion on recovery?

Tracy Black July 01, 2017

PS … I forgot to add that “bruising” in the sole callus/wall of the hoof is actually the evidence of injury/insult that happened higher up in the hoof at the coronary band. The ‘pink’ in the sole callus is indicative of prior bleeding from some instance that happened months prior to the ‘bruise’ being visible. :)

Gwenyth Santagate June 30, 2017

Silje … the bruising could come from any number of reasons. Without looking at the individual hoof in this instance, I can’t tell you. :) — Gwen

Gwenyth Santagate June 30, 2017

So, the statement you’re quoting about the farrier trimming the sole because the sole itself causes bruising from being too high – what is then your opinion of the origin of the bruising?

Silje June 29, 2017

I’ve a new trimmer so will be observant with regards to this. Thanks for the articles

Carol June 29, 2017

Very important and helpful information
Thank you

Phil-John June 29, 2017

Very good information to know.

Beth June 28, 2017

This is fabulous to hear. My newly barefoot horse has this sole callous growing and I thought its was ok! Thanks for confirming that it is a good thing.

Lindsey June 28, 2017

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