Soft Soles

This topic contains 25 replies, has 21 voices, and was last updated by  RatedG 2 years, 5 months ago.

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  • LostInsideMyHead Original Poster LostInsideMyHead
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 1

    My horse has always had thin, soft soles that are very pressure sensitive. It’s ridiculously difficult to keep him comfortable completely barefoot – I have to keep his front feet shod. To go barefoot on the front means almost daily application of multiple sole hardening products, the effects of which go out the window the second his feet get trimmed. His hoof wall is good and strong, and grows just fine, if a little slowly (8-week trim cycle). His soles however barely grow. My farrier only ever touches his soles to clean them up a little if he happens to be shedding them. Otherwise there isn’t enough for her to mess with them at all. She just trims down his toes a little.

    Any ideas? I would like to maybe be able to let him go barefoot in the winter at least. Giving him more than a couple days off just leads to my gelding forgetting his manners or getting very ornery. I know he will probably need hoof boots when I ride, but I would like for him to be comfortable when turned out, without spending an hour a day painting stuff on his soles and trying to make him hold his foot up long enough for it to dry. After a few minutes he’s pretty much done with holding his foot up.

    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 26

    I have had experience with 2 geldings that seemed to have thin soles. The first horse improved when a new and more efficient farrier addressed the problem. The horse had one farrier for many years that took too much sole off. That changed when I bought him

    My gelding now has been barefoot for about 1 1/2 years. It has taken a year to pull him through it, but it has been worth the effort. My situation is that he is now out on pasture almost 24/7. He can be brought up to a shed if necessary.

    I use a Natural Barefoot certified hoof trimmer. She says my horse will quickly adapt to gravel when he is brought up to the barn to stay under the shed. (I was worried it was too bad on his feet)

    He is still a small bit tender on some surfaces when we ride out in the fields and it is probable he always will be. But barefoot can be so much better since it is the way horses were intended to be.

    If you can find a certified Barefoot hoof person to start taking care of your horses feet, that person will guide you through the process.

    It is possible your horse will not be able to go shoeless. But it is also possible one must be willing to take a year to let it evolve.

    Maybe this helps you some? I hope so.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 25

    Some horses just can’t go barefoot! I tried for the first 5 years of my gelding’s life to go barefoot with him. He was developing all types of lameness, pulling this and that because he was trying to avoid hurting his soles! I gave up and started with shoes. No lameness issues anymore (he’s now 18). My mare – not only is she shod, she is in pads during the wet season. My farrier knows what she is doing – my horses don’t have contracted heels, messed up frogs or any such thing that people say happens to shod horses. The only problem is the cost of the shoeing! Some horses just cannot go barefoot.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 9

    You could try hoof pads, if he gets ouchy after shoeing. They will probably be made of leather, and the area between the pad and the sole of the hoof is packed with oakum, to assure that the frog gets pressure on every step. Try it for a couple of shoeing cycles, and see if it helps. The nails go through the leather into the hoof wall as usual, and although a padded hoof isn’t particularly susceptible to water, you would probably want to keep the horse out of really sucky mud.

    dmaequestrian dmaequestrian
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 10

    If he is having trouble keeping his foot healthy, maybe try shoeing him with pads to protect his feet. This will protect them and create less of a chance of him becoming sore. If you really want to keep him barefoot, try giving him hoof strengthening products. There are a wide variety of hoof hardeners and even supplements to encourage growth and optimal health. Also, try keeping the hooves as dry as possible and avoid thrush. This would weaken them and prevent growth.

    Joan Fry
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    I second pflady’s comments. Not all horses can go barefoot, just the way not all horses have high withers or can grow a long, sexy forelock. It’s in the genes. I currently own a Morgan and have the same problem with her. I tried twice to let her go barefoot–it’s usually healthier and definitely cheaper–but she goes instantly lame. Thanks to a knowledgeable farrier, she’s fine now in all kinds of footing.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 3

    My horse (15 years old) has also had problems with hooves
    and soles. Recently my farrier put “clogs” on his front
    hooves. We could see a difference almost immediately. I just
    checked them Saturday (21st May) and they looked fine, and he’s very
    comfortable with them.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    Farriers formula helps as well as a mixture of formaldehyde and ETOH your vet will know how to mix it and it’s cheap! My horses soles harder within the week, very easy to use simply clean hooves then paint the mixture on!

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 25

    If you use formaldehyde to toughen your horse’s soles, please remember that formaldehyde is carcinogenic. You probably don’t need to worry about your horse getting cancer, but you do have to remember to avoid inhaling formaldehyde fumes so you don’t develop cancer!

    Joan Fry
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    Nazira, does your horse have laminitis? I’d never heard of clogs so I googled them and found this article:

    Thank you for mentioning them! That old cliche about you never stop learning about horses is true. My farrier and I are going to have a chat. Boo is prone to thrush in one front hoof, and I do have to be diligent about applying medication every time I clean her feet. But the basic idea makes sense–that wood absorbs more impact with each stride than iron shoes do.

    riding for Christ riding for Christ
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 118

    Lostinsidemyhead, Sometimes when horses have soft soles or anything like that, they are not getting something from what they are eating. What do you feed your horse?

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 3

    This is Nazira responding to the question of Laminitis.
    My horse did not have this, thank Goodness. He did have
    very achy joints and walked like an old man. Until the
    farrier put clogs on his front hooves. These clogs are
    made of very heavy rubber. He got better so quick. It’s
    now been over a month and the farrier has changed his
    front shoes to PLRs. The P stands for peripheral but
    I can’t remember the whole thing. These shoes are made
    of aluminum (front only) He seems to be doing well -so far.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 3

    And also, my horse, Ezra, eats only hay and
    an occasional carrot.

    LostInsideMyHead Original Poster LostInsideMyHead
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 1

    To everyone that recommended hoof pads, my horse is perfectly comfortable in just regular shoes and has only thrown a shoe twice in 9 years. As I said, his hoof walls are healthy and strong, they just grow on the slow side. I currently keep him in front shoes because his soles are soft – you can feel them give just pressing on them with your fingers. He absolutely hates hoof testers.

    I’ve tried a couple other farriers, and no difference.

    Riding for Christ, Cody gets 4 flakes of timothy, and a flake of alfalfa daily, as well as ~4 lbs Purina Ultium, 1 cup Envision(made by progressive nutrition I think it is), OptiZyme, SmartOmega Ultra, and a dozen different herbs for various things (half of them to prevent stomach ulcers from reoccurring). Rosehip made a difference in his horn quality, but hasn’t helped how soft his soles are. Hawthorne berry didn’t make any difference in the six months I tried it. He also gets an hour-ish of grazing time during the months there is green grass to be had. The stable I board at buys its hay from only a couple growers so the quality is very consistent.
    Yes, my pony is a hard keeper. I will literally throw a party the day he actually gets fat.

    Chris Chris
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 17

    For anyone interested in comments from barefoot trimmers such as myself, it’s very helpful to know your horse’s breed/age, which part of the country your horse lives in and whether the terrain is sandy, rocky, dry, muddy, etc. Also how much time your horse spends turned out and moving/grazing, hopefully in the company of other equines.

    IME, the issue is rarely one of soft or thin soles, but rather how firmly the coffin bone (CB) is attached to the hoof wall (i.e., health of the laminar connection). The sort of tenderness you describe is often attributable to stretched laminae, which causes the CB to sit too low in the hoof capsule. Taken “all the way” this results in a dropped CB or “sinker”, which is extremely painful to the horse. Any laminar stretching can result in trapping the sensitive corium between the CB and sole, especially as the horse moves over harder or rougher ground or has to deal with the added weight of a rider.

    The normal rate of hoof wall growth is roughly twice that of sole, and I’ve seen horses kept on sandy soils that abrade the sole so that it barely needs trimming. But I’d be concerned that an 8 week trim cycle is the result of some combination of significantly reduced growth and/or quite abrasive terrain. Horn growth is always enhanced by optimal blood circulation within the hooves, which in turn is determined by overall hoof shape and a ground parallel coffin bone on weight bearing.

    When you look at the soles on your horse’s feet, is there concavity present? That is, does the hoof “dish in” a little if you hold a ruler flat across the widest part, with the deepest concavity at the tip of the frog? If not, then it’s likely that either the CB is too low in the hoof capsule (possible chronic laminitis), the CB has undergone remodeling (bone loss) and/or the walls have been trimmed too short. What does the white line (the narrow light colored band between sole and wall) look like? Is there any seedy toe or separation (dirt line) present before/after trimming; can you easily dig a groove in it with a hoof pick?

    Most definitely take a close look at your horse’s diet and ELIMINATE any and all “sweet feeds” and minimize non-structural carbohydrates (NSC)! Your mention of stomach ulcers/difficult weight gain strongly suggest that your horse has some level of chronic pain and probable hind gut problems (such as leaky gut) that will definitely cause/exacerbate hoof problems such as chronic laminitis.

    Finally I must disagree with those of the opinion that bad feet are genetic or that some horses can’t go without shoes. Please realize that applying a rigid shoe to a hoof WILL (no maybe’s) decrease circulation, sometimes to the point that it effectively numbs the foot–thus the appearance of “instant improvement”. But of course this does nothing to alleviate the actual damage and can prevent healing. Also I’ve seen horses who’ve been shod with pads and the constant pressure absolutely destroyed their soles–so thin and weak I could draw blood with my fingernail! If you haven’t already, please continue to look for a trimmer who can take your horse barefoot successfully (tried the listings at Even without seeing your horse, I feel your horse’s problem is very likely metabolic in nature, and that needs to be decisively dealt with before barefoot success is likely. Please feel free to ask if you have more ???’s if you find any of this helpful…

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