Trimming the Sole of the Hoof


Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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14 Responses

  1. Sue says:

    I have a question. What about trimming the sole back so that it is not lower than the wall? My horse can’t stand the pressure so I have the trimmer make sure there is no sole touching the ground. That has to be trimmed back right? I live in Fl so horse is on soft ground, lots of sand.

    • Casie says:

      I never trim live sole. I guess I’m wondering why the sole would be lower than the wall? (I assume you mean when the foot is on the ground?) I leave the wall just slightly longer than the sole.

  2. Megan says:

    My horse’s soles were dry and cracked looking…also practically 100% flat. He fell…I had a barefoot trimmer in one week after the farrier and she took out about 2 cups of material total…including some hoof wall and some bar. She said there was so much dead material that he did not have a lot of feeling in his hooves and this could have contributed to his fall. Opinion?

    • Casie says:

      That could have been false sole. It can build up pretty thick in dry weather and if the walls are overgrown, especially.

  3. It always rather amuses me to read – not just here but in so many quarters – about trimming “live sole” and “dead sole”. It should be realised that neither exist. The sole is part of the hoof. The hoof is inert – neither living nor dead (it has never been alive and can therefore never be dead; it is merely an excretion). If you are actually cutting into live tissue, then you have gone through the sole and are into the structures underneath that are responsible for the production of the sole…obviously NEVER the intention !
    What you should be looking to remove is generally not even (inert) sole but rather the chalky material that builds up in layers on the surface of the sole. Unfortunately, there are barefoot practitioners that attempt to create concavity in the sole by paring away at it – not really recommended, as you might imagine.
    A false sole or double sole, as it is sometimes known, is something farriers tend to leave well alone for some reason or another. Probably because of all the nastiness that can appear underneath it… There are two main causes for the false sole – the one is when it is truly false and the bars have been neglected to the point that they flatten and cover the whole of the sole; the other is actually not false at all but rather the old sole that is shedding from a new sole underneath – simply renewing itself. The frog will also do this at times too.
    The important thing to remember is that the frog is the support, the sole the balance and the wall the protection, in general terms. The sole should be tidied of flaky rubbish and false/old disconnected layers; the frog should be trimmed of any flaps and traps – that includes anything blocking the lateral grooves; the wall should be trimmed back to the white line making sure that the white line is complete and does not show any signs in infiltration by bacteria (black marks).

    • Casie says:

      Thank you for your comment and advice, Timothy. It appears we disagree on semantics, but otherwise agree on the process of removing the material that should be removed from the bottom of the hoof. 🙂

  4. Dave says:

    Thank you for the discussion on this. I’ve been moving gradually to doing less and less, relying now almost entirely on riding on a combination of abrasive sand (quarry sand in the arenas in our area), turf, and a limited amount of asphalt to maintain the hooves. For the past 8 months, so far, this has been working out very well as his breakover is now perfectly biomechanically determined rather than estimated by me (though my estimations were needed to get him to the point where he can self wear without issues). I should note that I still do round up sharp wall edges weekly or more often if necessary, but it’s all just touching up, and I meticulously pick out his hooves twice a day which I know isn’t the usual.

    I only remove frog if it is very loose, but really don’t need to as it will wear off on it’s own. I no longer see any pockets or other structures on the frog that could trap stuff, that stay for more than a few days – I think perhaps it’s part of the normal process where it loosens up and is maybe helped by the right bacterial action.

    I never touch the sole any more – the flaky material that I sometimes see seems to harden up if I leave it and provides protection. I do have to be careful how much I wear down his hoof walls riding so the soles are always a bit recessed which now stays that way naturally.

    When we started this process by going barefoot when he was 23, he had been routinely lame from hoof issues since I first knew him (OTTB 8 years old), would routinely pull shoes, developed chronic white line disease, etc. After 2 years of transition which certainly had it’s ups and downs early in the process, his hooves are solid, he is never lame, and we’ve returned to training in eventing. The wear on his hooves does interfere at times with what he can do, but mostly I’ve adapted riding to suit the level and types of activity on various footing that he tolerates. I know I am lucky to have the combination of turf, sand and asphalt to ride on. He is, however, very fit and is back to running at racing speeds on the beach – faster than he did with shoes, and at age 25, with absolutely no issues whatsoever….so far.

    I am just learning though, and would like to know why the bars growing out and covering the sole is a bad thing? My OTTB has naturally very light hooves – very thin walled and thin soles. I’ve been hoping that the bars would grow out over them to protect better, but so far it wears off on it’s own.

  5. Laura Guldenpfennig says:

    Just had a barefoot trimmer do my 4 horses. They have been barefoot a couple of years. Trimmed every 6 weeks. My other farrier has had trouble sticking to appts. Because of his other job. So tried new person today who took wall back to right length but was trained not to touch sole “callous ” on end of sole. All horses now walking on soles not walls. What is the cure for this issue?

    • Casie says:

      Hi Laura–the sole should share in weight-bearing, along with the walls and the back of the foot. I’m not sure which issue you’re concerned about. Are your horses sore?

      • Billie Jo says:

        Hello. Like Laura, I recently went through a very similar situation. I use the same farrier for 7 years. I am now using a new Ferrier who will not take the sole. My horses have been very sore. This concerns me. I am told that I have to give the wall time to catch up and to give additional supplements. One of the horses they have casts so there’s not as much pressure. I was just curious your thought on this?

        • Casie says:

          Hi Billie Jo. I would be concerned too if they’re sore every time this farrier trims. That’s a red flag, in my opinion. Are they trimming the walls too short possibly? Or could there be compacted sole (which is basically dead sole) that needs to come off? It’s hard to say without seeing pictures.


  6. Karla says:

    Thanks for your blog! I’m learning and this is really helpful!

  7. Karen Fischhaber says:

    I have an old horse that actually shed way too much sole. Why would that happen? He is very sore on his front feet!

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