Take Steps to Deal With Your Horse’s Thin, Sensitive Soles

Learn what can cause your horse’s thin, sensitive soles, plus what you can do to improve them and his overall hoof health.
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Woman checking her horse's hoof boot.

Hoof boots that provide support for the sole and frog of your horse's feet (such as these boots from Soft Ride) can help encourage the blood flow that leads to sole strengthening and growth. 

Thin, sensitive soles can put your horse’s feet at risk for bruising and abscesses. Thin soles can be caused by over-trimming, and most practitioners now know not to try to trim an arch into a flat sole. Wet environments can overly soften the sole and contribute to thinning. Then, too, some horses are simply genetically predisposed to thin soles. Good nutrition is essential; make sure your horse receives enough biotin, methionine, lysine, copper, and zinc in his diet. Regular exercise to promote circulation is also critical, as are routine visits from a competent hoof-care professional. For extra help, see “Sole Solutions” at right.

 [LEARN MORE: How to “read” your horse’s hooves.]

Sole Solutions

Tougheners: If, despite your best-management strategies, your horse still has thin, sensitive soles, consider a paint-on topical dressing to help toughen them up. There are excellent commercial products available for this purpose; some owners also find that Venice turpentine, 7% iodine, tea tree oil, and/or pine tar can be effective. (Be sure to apply such dressings to the sole only, as they can burn skin or dry out the hoof wall.)

Protection: If need be, consider extra protection for your horse’s thin soles, especially if your horse must travel over sand or gravel. Pour-in pads have proven helpful both in providing protection and supporting the frog in a way that encourages blood flow, leading to more growth and a thicker, healthier sole.

Comfort boots worn during stabling can offer the same circulation-promoting function when they adequately support the sole and frog of the foot.  

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Toughen Up!

Commercial products designed to harden and reinforce the equine sole can be part of an effective strategy for dealing with your horse’s sensitive-sole problem. Properly used, such applications can help to create a tougher natural pad on the bottom of your horse’s feet.

[RELATED: How to diagnose equine corns.]

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