No part of the horse “takes a beating” like the sole of the hoof. The horse’s sole and hoof share the responsibility in supporting the weight of the horse while withstanding the different terrains when running, jumping, trail riding, or performing. Rocks, concrete, mud, grass, and other surfaces take a toll on the bottom of the hoof. Therefore, a healthy sole is vital to the horse.
An unhealthy sole can limit a horse’s performance, lead to severe hoof related issues such as abscesses, thrush, white line disease, or canker. Horse owners can take steps to build and manage a healthy sole by understanding its function, preventing factors that negatively impact its health, and promote sole quality through daily maintenance, diet, and nutrition.
The Function of the Horse’s Sole
The bottom of the hoof consists of the sole (the concave portion) and frog (the ”V” shaped tissue) surrounded by the hoof capsule. The average sole should be concave measuring approximately 3/8 to 1/2 inches thick. The sole plays important functions in the horse’s mobility by helping to distribute weight and protect the coffin bone.
The coffin bone is the main bone located within the hoof capsule. It is surrounded by laminae which attaches the coffin bone to the hoof wall. The sole lies beneath the coffin bone and helps support and protect the internal anatomy of the hoof capsule from the external environment.
Thin or compromised soles will allow excess stress to be applied on to the coffin bone especially on hard or rocky surfaces. The excess stress encourages a multitude of hoof related issues to develop. Promoting sole quality is essential in developing hoof quality and prolonging the usefulness of your horse.
Factors that Affect the Horse’s Sole
There are three major factors that horse owners must manage:
- The Environment
- Hoof Care Maintenance
The mismanagement of any of these factors can weaken the sole and predispose the hoof to several issues.
- Improper nutrition through an imbalanced diet can lead to nutritional excesses or deficiencies in the horse. This imbalance will directly affect the hoof by developing poor hoof and sole quality that is less resilient to bacteria, cracks, and other issues.
- The environment can be just as harmful by predisposing hooves to bacterial infections and fungal invasions. Overly wet environments will also soften the hoof wall and sole, weakening the protection they provide.
- Hooves that are not properly managed through farrier work and daily cleanings can become packed with debris. A sole packed with debris cannot properly “breathe.” Thus, building an environment perfect for anerobic bacteria.
There is an extensive list of hoof related problems associated with the sole. Managing these factors will act as a preventive measure against this long list. The sole can be subjected to a multitude of conditions including:
- White line disease
- Contracted soles
- False soles
- Hoof abscesses
- Prolapsed soles
- Puncture wounds
- Subsolar abscess
- Thin soles
- and more…
Promoting Equine Sole Quality
Proper Nutrition for the Equine Sole
A balanced diet that provides the essential nutrients important for hoof growth will nurture a sole that is thicker, stronger, and more resilient to bacteria and injury. Horse owners can achieve this by taking the horse back to its basic diet and strengthen the diet with a quality hoof supplement. Farrier’s Formula® can help rebuild and maintain sole strength. Feeding balanced nutrition along with Farrier’s Formula® can also help in the recovery of a sole related hoof problem or injury.
Nutrition is especially important to horses suffering from acute or chronic laminitis. Horse owners may want to consider adding a supplement specialized for laminitic horses. Life Data® Lamina Formula was formulated as a complimentary supplement to be given with Farrier’s Formula® to help support the laminitic horse and assist in laminitis recovery.
Protecting External Sole Health
The horse’s sole is the first line of defense between the horse and the ground. It will always be in contact with the environment against rain, sand, mud, urine, feces, bacteria, and countless other matter. Constant exposure to the environment can wear down the sole’s defenses and allow unwanted debris, bacteria, and fungi to penetrate and invade the hoof.
Horse owners can help maintain the health of the sole by managing the horse’s exposure to the environment. Reducing exposure to wet environments, maintaining clean stalls, and using non-caustic hoof topicals are all steps that can be used to protect not only the sole, but the entire hoof.
For example, if your horse is often exposed to wet and muddy environments, applying Farrier’s Finish® regularly will help maintain moisture balance. It can also help prevent hooves from becoming too soft from excess moisture.
Using Life Data® Hoof Clay® around the frog and along the white line helps protect the sole from the bacterial invasions that cause Thrush and White Line Disease. Protecting your horse’s hooves externally protects new hoof growth that is developing internally.
Hoof Care and the Sole
Proper hoof care is an essential to managing sole health. Inspect and pick out each hoof daily to remove excess debris from the sole. Daily cleaning can help prevent Thrush, White Line Disease, and hoof abscesses. Regular farrier appointments also help sole quality by ensuring hooves remain balanced and not overgrown.
A strong sole is essential in maintaining the health and usefulness of your horse. Through nutrition, environmental management, and proper hoof care you can help your horse develop the best quality sole genetics will allow. Consult with your farrier or veterinarian if you believe your horse has a sole related hoof issue. If you have any questions on equine nutrition and supplementation feel free to contact us.