Does your horse have thin soles?


The thin-soled horse is one where the bottom of his hoof, the sole, is much thinner than expected and may, or may not, cause him problems. This means his coffin bone and other internal hoof structure are less protected. Definitely get your vet and farrier involved if you suspect any hoof problems!


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What causes a horse to be thin-soled?


  • And how do we quantify it? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, some Vets say normal is 10mm, some say normal is 6 or 7mm. Some say thin starts at 5mm, some say thin starts at 3mm.


  • Of course, sole thickness begins with genetics and nutrition. Toss in some possible past hoof traumas, type of ground your horse lives on, type of footing he’s ridden on, and even any past or current thrush or another type of infection of the hoof. Factor in your Farrier and how much sole is removed at each trim. The weather and climate play a factor here, also. Wet conditions can soften things up.

cross section of hoof with a thick sole

COMPARE – Look at the section of hoof marked #8 – that’s the sole. Or lack of it.

cross section of hoof with a thin sole



Problems seen in thin-soled horses


  • Your horse might be tender footed! Hard, uneven, or rocky ground might cause him major discomfort. He will likely take shorter steps and want to veer onto softer grassy ground.


  • The thin-soled horse might bruise more easily and frequently. He might get more thrush infections.



  • Please don’t think that one day he will just get used to being thin-soled and all will be right. He needs help!

What you can do for the thin-soled horse:


  • First, get your vet and farrier involved. Your vet can take some X-rays to determine the actual thickness of your horse’s soles. This is just a starting point! Hoof testers can also be used to test for sensitivity. You might also be able to squeeze the sole with your thumb and notice if there is any give to the sole. This could indicate thin soles or an extremely powerful thumb.



hoof x ray on a screen

Your Vet doesn’t need a dozen views to see how thick the sole is. Make sure your farrier gets a copy of the x-rays, too.


  • Then work on your horse’s diet. An equine nutritionist is a great place to start.


  • Figure out a way to have his bedding and outdoor footing support him. Stop riding on hard or rocky surfaces. If you live in one of those wet climates, think about mud management and adding mats in the areas that your horse likes to hang out.


  • Have your farrier address make any changes to his trimming and shoeing cycle. Add leather pads. Add a pour in pad. Use hoof packing. Try a hoof hardener with Venice Turpentine to thicken up the existing sole. If your horse is barefoot, find a boot he can wear. Some boots come up over the coronary band and might cause rubs if left on. Some boots wrap just around the hoof and can be worn for longer periods of time. Some boots are actually more like glue on shoes and offer a great option for when they need to stay on indefinitely.



hoof boots on a horse standing on gravel

Give your horse a better sole than the one he has.


  • Thin soled doesn’t mean tender and painful, just as thick-soled doesn’t mean perfectly safe. But really – if your horse has any problems, the thickness of his soles is a small piece of the much larger puzzle.


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Thank you!