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Friday, July 19, 2013

Thin Soles in a Horse!!

The radiographs below in Figures 1-3 belong to a middle-aged QH gelding that presented for severe lameness. The gelding was recently trimmed by the farrier and had a history of mild to moderate foot pain.
On presentation, the gelding was very sore when asked to walk on a firm surface and was not willing to walk in a tight circle! There were NO pounding digital pulses however firm pressure, via my finger tips, over the sole region resulted in a strong pain reaction by the gelding. Radiographs were taken and severely thin soles were diagnosed in both front feet (Figure 1 and 2). The actual thickness of the sole was difficult to measure due to the thinness but was approximated at 2-3mm (Figure 3). Less than 5mm of thickness essentially corresponds to 1 swipe with the hoof knife!!

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

In Figure 4, there is a radiograph of a normal horse's foot. The sole depth at the toe region is approximately 15-20mm. In my experience, when the sole thickness is less than 10mm, there is increased likelihood of foot pain from concussion with the ground. Thin soled horses are at high risk for sole bruising and sub-solar abscess development. Unfortunately, some horses are "naturally" thin soled due to poor genetics and MUST be managed with shoes. The corrective shoeing is simple and may include a rim pad, leather pad , or soft pour-in pad. I strongly recommend radiographic evaluation PRIOR to any foot trimming to determine the sole thickness of horses that have a history of chronic foot pain!

Figure 4


  1. Question: why should the sole be pared by the hoof knife on a barefoot at all? Would the sole ever get too thick?

    Puzzled, Jean

  2. Dr. Porter,

    Do you have update on this gelding with thin soles? What was your feeding recommendations, suplements, etc.

    Interested to hear because I am dealing with the same issue. X-Rays show soles to be less than 5mm in both front feet. Now have shoes with leather pad and the mare is still off.