Don't TOUCH That Sole Callus!

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"He pointed out that the sole callous area (the areas of the sole closest to the edges of the hoof) was *too high* and was hitting the ground first, instead of the hoof wall hitting the ground the first.

So he took his hoof-knife and pared away a a few slivers of sole area, and underneath the area he took off was bright red bruising. He said that the sole *itself* was causing bruising from being too high and putting pressure on the foot."


The above statement coming from a farrier who was asked to check a barefoot trim. 


He's ... wrong. 

The sole callus area (see the grey area around the hoofwall on the above illustration) is SUPPOSED to be hitting the ground and supportive of the weight of the loading hoof. 

The wall and white line area (sole callus) is the weight bearing area of the foot. 

Most farriers will rasp this area to fit to the shoe. Well, we ain't fittin' shoes so please, please, please do NOT rasp or knife that sole callus away! 

See the blue outlined area?  THAT is sole callus ... do NOT trim that away!  That is there to help share the weight bearing load the hoof receives during movement. It's like a 'natural shoe' ... and it BELONGS there! 

If the hooves are not maintained properly then sometimes that area will grow excessively and will need some skimming down. But, for the most part, on healthy hooves, that area will build and that's exactly what is needed ... the 'natural shoe' on a barefooted horse. 

Here's another hoof with a nice sole callus:  Can you see it? Outlined in red. 


This is something that must be built on a hoof that is recently transitioned.  Lots of hand walking on a tarred surface every day will go much further in building up callus than will artificial sole toughening products. Hand wallking will toughen up the hoof as a whole as well as help the horse to balance and build a sturdy, strong, functional hoof. 

Now, another area that is mistakenly called "sole callus" is the area between the apex of the frog and the toe wall ... this is, simply, callused 'sole' ... or, sole. (see top illustration) ... THIS AREA is most important to the hoof as it protects the coffin bone. It should NEVER be trimmed down by either rasp (in which case one would be rasping a flat sole) or by knife. When trimmed it not only thins the sole but also allows closer access to the ground by the coffin bone in the foot. The healthy hoof will exfoliate whatever excess sole that is not needed by itself.  One may peel off the sole that is trying to exfoliate but if it is strongly adhered then just leave it alone. The hoof needs it.

The sole corium is made up of terminal papillae. This means the papillae that grows sole tissue will stop growing when the sole is about 1/4 " thick and will then begin to fold up on itself to form that awesome callus. 

Once again, the hoof exhibits its extraordinary capabilities of helping the horse to survive. No hoof, no horse. 

So the next time your farrier or trimmer want to start cutting into the sole callus of your horse's hoof, tell them STOP!  Your horse needs that stuff on its hoof! 



 Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:



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