The sole of the matter

I got a really helpful response back from our hoof trimmer. I was concerned about some stuff with Bob’s soles—especially on his fronts. I know she must have explained a lot of this to me on Tuesday, but I was a bit distracted by the injured rider. It was kind of her to take the time to educate me (again), and was interesting enough that I decided to share it here (reprinted with the author’s permission).

Two issues about sole:

First, it’s not quite “dead” sole, and I hope I didn’t mislead you.  The correct term is “exfoliating sole”.  This means that it is in the process of exfoliating but it is not ready to come off yet.  It may get very thick (over ½”) before it finally sheds off.  This will happen before the end of October.  It will happen when it’s ready and we must not do anything to hasten it along.  Think of exfoliating sole like a scab.  If we pick the scab off too early, problems occur underneath and we start the healing process over again with a new scab.

Some horses need to have exfoliating sole removed.  Foundered horses, for example, have trouble with excess build-up on the sole because their hooves can’t flex normally.  We have guidelines for removing such sole, and special tools to help us.  Bob does not fall into this category; we must be patient and wait for him.

Second, Bob was weight-bearing on his sole before I trimmed him.  This occurs when walls are allowed to grow too long and to grow parallel to the ground.  The sole takes up the weight-bearing role.  As new, connected, wall grows out from the top (he passes the credit card test), then wall will share the weight-bearing role with the sole and the sole will not be so pronounced when we look at the bottom of the foot.

The horse’s body make compromises.  It would prefer to share the load between wall and sole, but when that is not possible then the sole takes the load temporarily while the wall is growing in corrected.

Here are my thoughts about gravel.  We should assume that every horse in western Oregon will be tender on gravel.  We should not ask them to walk on gravel except as absolutely necessary (crossing the driveway to get to the other side) and should let them take their time and pick their own way through the rocks.  Driveways are very hard surfaces, and the sharp-edged rocks create difficulty for most horses.  There are some horses that can handle gravel, and others that are comfortable on it during certain times of the year.  If this happens to our horse, it is a bonus.  We just shouldn’t expect it.

Our plan for Bob is to grow a healthy hoof from the top down, and boot as necessary so that you can ride whenever and wherever you want.

About Mike

Michael Heggen is a horseman, maker, and thinker who lives in Salem, Oregon with his wife, Kim, and "three to eight cats". He stays quite busy riding, driving, and caring for their three horses, Boulder, Shasta, and Bob. Among other things, Mike has been a fencing coach, police chaplain, computer consultant, aspirant to the diaconate, computer salesman, box boy, carpenter, computer technician, typesetter, church youth leader, copy machine operator, and network administrator. His other interests include juggling, reading voraciously, and (pretty occasionally these days) cycling.
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