An Exposition on False Sole

...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play, and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

As promised, an informal communication on False Sole.

We will lightly review equine podiatry in terms of Natural Trimming and Shoeing versus Traditional style.

This is not a veterinary analysis or professional dissertation on trimming and shoeing, and I hope to explain things in a simple, concise manner.

Rather, it is a brief look at some vocabulary words and terminology, and what to look for should your horse have a “False Sole.”

I always suggest consulting with a qualified professional for questions on veterinary or hoof issues.

Farriers have many opinions on how to trim horse feet. Some like a higher toe position, relative to the ground and the heel. Some like more heel, to add as cushion for weight impact.

"Traditional" farrier work leaves longer heels and bars, with a pared-out sole. The "Natural" style trimming leaves more sole, as a cushion against impact and weight.

The sole of the horse’s hoof is the area that takes up the largest portion of the bottom of the foot and it is the sole of the foot that should take on most of the horse’s weight, not the walls of the hoof. (1)

A healthy sole should be a strong, calloused, and thick area that cushions between the ground and the horse’s Coffin Bone; there really isn’t anything else in between.

A good farrier knows the difference between live and dead sole material. The dead material is flaky and whitish in color, while the live sole material should be shiny and hard. Live sole matter should never be trimmed out, and a good rule of thumb is, “less is more;” that is, if you have doubts, leave it alone. (2)

The terms concave and convex are often used in farrier work, and everyone seems to want “concavity,” but again, it is a matter of opinion.

Concave curves inward and is hollow, like this ) Like, go into the cave.

Convex curves outward, like this ( Like, pointing outward.

“False Sole” can occur for various reasons, and it sits in place over the live material, hence the name.

When cleaning out or trimming your horse’s feet, you may see a sole that looks alive, and the horse is walking around on it, but the visual aspect is dull in appearance, and it is actually the false sole.

As you use your hoof pick, the dead or false sole will break and flake apart in chunks of dry, grayish, or dull material, and it falls away before you come down to, and hit the hard, live sole underneath.

Sometimes soles can be compromised due to the horse standing in too wet or too dry conditions. Sometimes sores appear on the sole from hitting a rock, punctures occur from stepping on a nail, or bruises can show up on the sole.

Sometimes the farrier is at fault, hitting a horseshoe nail in at the wrong angle, causing blood and a sore.

These areas can eventually slough off in dead sole materials.

The “Bars,” or the outside area next to the “Collateral Groove,” or “Frog Groove,” may look like a part of the sole, if they are overgrown. Long bars may merge on-into the sole, in a lumpy appearance. (3)

The “Seat of Corn” is the outermost part of the sole, nearest the “heel buttress” and “heel bulbs,” the furthest or opposite point from the toe, where the hoof wall meets the heel bulbs.

The V-point of the frog is called the “Point of Frog,” and sits closest to the toe. (4)

The bars and walls sitting just above a barely-trimmed or barely-scraped sole is the ideal in Natural Trimming, and farriers of this style aspire to this perfect result in their trade.

The deeper the Collateral Grooves, the thicker the sole; by the same token, the more shallow the Grooves, the less cushion for the weight-impact and delicate Coffin Bone.

Flat-footed horses with shallow Collateral Grooves need a shoe or more padding, and the sole must be allowed to grow and build.

As a farrier becomes more experienced, the sole does all the talking. The farrier knows this is a very important part of the horse's anatomy.

Holes, flat feet, abscesses, and old stone bruises may be seen on barefoot horses, and owners should take precautions to see that their horse is comfortable.

The farrier can help with recommendations on shoes and pads, and a good farrier will always help the client with problem resolution.

Natural Barefoot Trimming is an art; short and balanced heels on the animal that sit just above the sole, with bars that are monitored and left to carry their part of the horse’s weight are the model of excellence, and they have no equal.

In case you wake up one day saying, “I think I’ll be a blacksmith,” never trim too much hoof, too fast, especially on a horse with long feet.

Study some illustrations and read up on the trade. An anatomy chart is helpful, too.

Long toes and high heels are like a scuba diver in flippers, and will make for a sorry, clumsy animal.

Gradually trimming down a long toe and long heel gives the animal time to adjust, and also gives live tissue time to stay or retreat.

The forward -slung heel is the result of the passage of time in between farrier visits, and also from lack of knowledge of the trade, and from not studying the natural curve of the toe. Horses’ feet do not look like pointy, spade shovels and they do not parade around in high heels.

The toe should be nicely-rounded, with bulbs at a suitable height.

The heel should be “moved back” gradually, along with the toe. (5)

I’ve seen rescue horses whose feet looked like elves shoes, all curled up and around. This is a terrible sight, with the animal walking on its heel bulbs and the rescuer left with a lengthy repair bill from the blacksmith. Trotting or galloping is impossible with this situation.

Simply cutting off the elf shoe portions of the foot will result in a bloodbath of live, exposed tissue and an very unhappy animal.

Natural Trimming is an art because the sole should be the cushion, yet the distinguished farrier should be able to nicely monitor the bars and outer wall of the hoof.

I do not believe in sharp trims and the scooping-out of the sole, as was the “fashion” about 15 years ago or so.

Blood drawn due to sharp trimming and scooping of the sole, to where the animal is sore because the farrier paid a visit just never made any sense to me, and I refuse to follow that methodology.

No way is blood being drawn a “natural” way of being for the horse, and I doubt any of that is happening with wild Mustang herds out west.

The terminology “Quicking,” where the farrier draws blood during a trim, by nippers or by paring knife, should only be by accident, with apologies given and antiseptic applied. (6)

Optimally sound horses should have a thick sole with low ridge wall and a supportive frog.

Sound horses also have nutritious diets and get lots of exercise.

Good conformation helps, too, since fluidity of movement aids in nicely formed hooves and comfort in motion.

That is all for now. Always consult the services of qualified Vets or farriers should your horse turn up lame or have hoof problems. They can offer treatment and advice for resolutions that are in the best interests of you and your animal.

Closing with the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”

1,2, 5: Internet, The Naturally Healthy Horse

3.4: Internet

6: The American Farriers Journal