Well, I’ve mentioned several times about how too-low heels or non-existent heels will cause thinning of the soles with collapse of the hoof. The above photo ... "Where a healthy sole would have concavity, this sole is actually bulging, indicating that the coffin bone is pressing down onto the sole, making the horse very sore. The tip of the frog corium is also pushed outward by this and it has practically no padding to protect the live frog plane. The frog itself is very diseased. Note the severe toe flare."
Photo and quote - Heike Bean
Not good. Not good at all.
The lack of sufficient heel is just one of the reasons for thinning soles. Today I want to just share a bit about some of the other reasons that the horse’s sole might be thin.
The most common reason I see in thinning soles, besides the lack of heel, is that with every trim sole is removed by the farrier or trimmer. I don’t mean just a cleaning up of the sole – I mean an over-trimming of the sole. There may be various reasons given for this so I won’t expound on them. Suffice to say, my own rule of thumb is, basically, if it doesn’t flake off easily then leave it. The hoof is a marvelous thing that will take care of itself and exfoliate the sole that is not needed given the correct environment, diet and overall state of health.
Above is an xray of a very thin soled hoof.
That being said, one must remember that the sole needs to be 1/2 to 5/8 inches thick in order to do it proper job of protecting the coffin bone. That sole grows from the ‘inside-out’. If the horse is not getting the proper nutrition, then the nutritional deficiencies will readily become apparent in the hoof. Poor wall growth and horn, soles that are weak, possible laminitis and resulting founder can all result from nutritional deficiencies.
This is an xray of a thick soled hoof.
Environment also plays a major role in the quality of the hoof, overall, with the sole of primary focus. An environment that consists of varied terrain, from rocks to grass to sand to mud and everything in between is the perfect environment for a horse to live in. The stimulation the hooves receive from traveling over varied terrain will result in varying stimulation that affords a good, thick callus to form on the sole.
That’s what we want.
Regardless of the environment or even nutrition, if the sole is over-thinned from trimming or the heels being over-trimmed, the hoof is going to suffer the consequences. Remember, the heels are the foundation of the support for the hoof.
So, what can one do when the insults are already in place?
First of all, be sure that whomever is working on the hooves has an in-depth and intimate knowledge of the anatomy & physiology of the equine digit and how it works. Someone who has a plethora of ‘tools’ in his or her ‘tool-box’ of experience and knowledge. And, one who isn’t afraid to think out of the box for the best interest of the horse.
Secondly, the horse owner, as well, should also have a working knowledge of the hooves as well as the nutritional needs for his or her individual horse. From grass to hay to minerals and salt as well as indicated herbs and such, one needs to know the nutritional balances necessary for the individual horse to ‘get’ healthy and remain healthy. The chances for recovery from a thin sole and lame horse will strongly depend on the nutrients to grow the hoof from the inside-out.
Thirdly, boots can be used to help protect the sole from bruising and excess wearing during simple movement as well as from work and exercise. Boots will help keep sharp rocks and ground from further damaging the sole during new growth. They also allow for adequate stimulation and functioning of the horse's hooves to regenerate good, healthy sole.
Once the sole thickness is 1/2 inch or more the boots can usually then be discarded. But remember, too, a varied terrain upon which the horse moves ... alot ... is needed to ensure adequate conditioning ... a horse that lives in wet, soft ground will have soft, weak hooves. So vary up that ground as much as you can ... and let the horse out to move!
Thin soles can be rehabilitated and reversed rather simply. Due diligence and care goes a long way to ensuring you have a sound, comfortable horse to ride.
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: www.thepenzancehorse.com/2012/RESUME.pdf
Thanks for the above. Very much share this perspective. It is particularly relevant in the UK where most horse are kept and ridden on wet, soft ground including arenas – particularly with the increase in annual rainfall in the last decade. The point made about having the horse regularly move on mixed ground including hard surfaces to help ‘condition’ the hoof / sole & stimulate growth is often avoided by folk who get trapped in a cycle of “my horse has sensitive feet so I can only ride on soft surfaces…” – so the sole does not get a chance to ‘condition’ as part of the whole process (diet, environment etc). Little, gradual & often walking on hard surfaces, leading then ridden, can help a horse with thin soles / sensitive hooves to develop sole depth & condition. A friend rehabs horses written off with thin soles etc. She has a range of surfaces they need to cross to get their food including herb buckets they chooses from. Amazing success! Boysie, our 15hh Morgan, came with wafer thin soles. But now does distance horse travel trips in boots (Scoots!) & natural to suit ground & has good soles. He still thinks he has ‘sensitive’ feet so likes verge hugging! But on the hard stuff never changes stride & is fine!
I’m very interested in more information on Scootboots.