The Sole of The Hoof
The sole forms the main base of the hoof with the walls residing around it and the frog lying in the central part of the sole.
When doing any trimming work the importance is to recognize the difference between live fresh sole and old dead ex-foliating sole.
Set Up Trim – What To Do With the Sole
Using the dull side of a hoof knife you can scrape old crumbly sole and flaky bar material off the bottom of the hoof. There are times when there maybe very little old ex-foliating sole and then there are other times when there is a great deal of old ex-foliating sole. Old ex-foliating sole is like crumbling cheese, it is very different from live sole.
What we have found in a first set up trim is although there may be old sole present just by removing the shoes and having the horse turned out unshod quite a lot of the old sole exfoliates on its own accord. So in other words if you are unsure don’t worry you can always go back and remove more the next time you trim,
Recognizing Live Sole
Live sole is waxy, a bit like candle wax that is still warm, it is hard and can have a shiny feel to it. It is important to recognize live sole and not trim it. You are wanting to develop a thick calloused sole.
What is Underneath the Sole
Beyond this more dense sole is the blood rich corium, or dermis, which you certainly do not want to expose.
What Not To Trim
When and if removing flaky sole leave a small amount of it to ex-foliate by itself as it adds some protection to the underlying live sole. i.e respect the dead to live sole, junction.
You need to learn to differentiate between material which is ready to ex-foliate versus areas with callused material which needs to stay put. Leaving adequate material for protection allows for normal sensation without pain, good shock absorption and traction.
Trimming into live sole allows the hoof to be bruised more easily and does not leave any sole material behind for the horse to wear on their own. Over-trimming like this can be too close to comfort, and may keep a horse from willingly moving around.
After The First Set Up Trim
Horses which are turned out and are moving around, often have none or very little flaky old ex-foliating sole material which needs removing. Hence there is next to nothing to do.
You will have to look and monitor your horses hooves, and see for yourself. Keep in mind crumbling cheese, if there is a lot of crumbling cheese then you need to help your horse by scraping this off with the back of your farriers knife, if there is none then leave the sole alone.
When learning to trim it took me a while to appreciate the difference between live and dead sole, hence the reason for explaining it. Thinking I was not trimming properly and being ‘lazy’ I was cleaning up the sole around the point of frog on one of our ponies and although it was a fine line when I looked at the pony the next day I could see she was a little sore. It was subtle and not many people would have even spotted it, but I knew that I was assuming there was still old sole that need removing, but there was not.
In fact she was maintaining the sole beautifully and did not need my assistance. Hence the importance of learning to read the hoof. You can do this, you just keep looking at your horses hooves and each you will see something new and gradually you end up being able to really read your horses hooves!
Your goal is to have a thick hard calloused sole. Many farriers remove live sole – in my opinion a big mistake.
A Summary of the Wild Horse Sole Trim
“Wild horse trim: Leave the sole at its full thickness. The sole is considered to be an important structure. It helps to hold the hoof together, helps prevent white line separation, and protects the interior of the hoof from the ground. In a sound or nearly-sound hoof, there is already sufficient hoof mechanism. Leaving the sole at its full thickness avoids soreness and abscessing. Concavity will occur naturally when the white line has fully recovered from the damage caused by horse-shoes.” Margaret Smith
My understanding of this is simply – don’t trim the sole and it will gradually right itself as the hoof becomes healthy.
A Summary of the Strasser Sole Trim
“Strasser trim: Trim the sole to mimic the concavity of a sound hoof. The reason is that the thinner sole spreads easily, which allows the bottom edge of the hoof wall to flex wider during weight-bearing, giving increased hoof mechanism.” Margaret Smith
My understanding of this is – they trim the sole to the way it should be in a healthy hoof. (I have only ever had to do this once, where there was just so much sole material around the seat of corn that it was keeping the frog too far off the ground.)
But apart from this I rarely touch the live sole due to the reasons as outlined above.
A Healthy Sole
Just for clarity above is a drawing of the hoof with all the named parts of the sole on it.
Above Image Credit : All Natural Horsecare.com
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