Managing Thin Soles

So much about thin soles is the trim, providing adequate sole protection while sole develops and getting the nutrition right…

What Is “Normal”???

When you start discussing thin soles, you need to remember that sole thickness varies widely based on age, breed, hoof care history, diet – everything is relative!

According to several vet friends, most “normal” horses have thin soles… 10mm is supposed to be average, but  6-8mm may be more “normal”.

Normal for most horses is quite thin relative to a mustang on soft range! Thick soles like we see in some walking horses and mustangs are not normal for most breeds or horses, and exceptions even exist in the gaited horse breeds… sole thickness varies widely, period.

Thick Sole Isn’t Always Good

I have been able to get a very thick sole to accumulate using Epona synthetic shoes, but it sheds back to “normal” once the horse is left barefoot. My friend Asa, in Las Vegas, hates thick sole because in her arid region, it needs to me trimmed out.

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

Rehabbing A Thin Sole?

If a horse has a sole that isn’t worn or trimmed to be thin,  and you leave a more stout wall &/or protect the sole from wear, then feed a better diet (see www.drkellon.com ! ) and use something like Keratex or Hoof Armor, you may be able to add 1 to 4 mm. Maybe!

In a case where the sole is already a a relatively healthy depth, and the wall height is good, you may not be able to get much improvement.

If a horse has worn his sole thin because his walls have been trimmed or worn short, like most of the thin soled horses I see,  or if the sole has been thinned in the trimming process, you can almost always get more sole to accumulate by tweaking the trim, diet and protection. Here’s my checklist:

  • balance the minerals www.drkellon.com
  • Feed straight grass hay (take away alfalfa and oat)
  • boot 24×7 or glue on synthetic shoes or boot shells
  • add boots for all exercise if left barefoot
  • change the environment to be non abrasive ; add soft dirt, saw dust, move to a soft pasture
  • change the trim technique to NOT trim sole and to let the walls get to be 1/8 to 1/4″ beyond the sole
  • Try Keratex applied daily. http://www.keratex.net/hoof_hardener.htm  “Keratex Hoof Hardener is a gentle acting chemical formulation which forms additional intermolecular bonds between molecules of keratin through the process of cross-linking. Keratin is the main protein constituent of horn and is best described as the building block of the horn structure.”
  • Try Hoof Armor http://www.hoofarmor.com/ “Hoof Armor® hoof protection is an easily applied adhesive coating that Farriers and horse owners alike can utilize to protect their barefoot horse’s hooves against abrasion and wear.”


Again, what is normal for one breed or individual, like a typical Gaited horse or Morgan, would be very thick for a TB or some lines of QH. Sole depth varies. My Marcel, a never shod Arab, has TB type feet, a thinner sole that often needs more protection.

 Should You Worry?

I only worry when the horse is uncomfortable in its living environment.

I used Hoof Armor and glue-on Glove shells on Diana Thompsons Timothy, a 29 to 32YO TB with historically thin soles, typically 6mm, and the result was that after 3 years barefoot, he had 12 to 14mm of sole depth. So sometimes it can happen but it really depends on the individual case.

In Tim’s case, we changed his diet and used glue-on boots for 6 months to protect his soles, and when they came off I used the Hoof Armor. He was on a super abrasive surface, so his feet wore down fast and we’d put him back in glue-ons after 5 to 8 weeks. If he’d been on a normal footing they might have stayed good longer… I don’t know.

Best goals are to try to get the horse optimally comfortable, keep the sole from wearing too fast…

Important To Remember:

  • Alfalfa often results in a more brittle wall and poor wall attachment. I see this on most horses…  the feet almost always get better when alfalfa is removed. Many horses grow a soft wall on oat or grain hay. I don’t know why! Its anecdotal.
  • I was skeptical about how much the small amount of alfalfa in the Elk Grove Stable Mix could affect the feet, but have one client who exchanged Elk Grove for straight grass hay pellets and the difference in the amount of wall separation by the next trim was significant. Its anecdotal, but its something you can try.
  • Too short a wall trim eliminates traction so the sole is subject to more abrasion.
  • Temporarily letting the heel get a bit taller helps relieve sole abrasion. Let the sole grow and you can lower the heel later.
  • Using boots 24×7 for a week to 2 or 3 months (with pads and Gold Bond) protects the sole and allows it to accumulate. Once the walls are solid and sole has developed, feet usually stay nice unless the environment is extremely abrasive.
  • Thin soles make feet tender and can result in mild inflammation, which appears to cause poor wall attachment and wall flare… vicious cycle! Wall attachment is better when feet are comfortable.


I trimmed a horse yesterday (large WB type, 1200 lbs) that I have been trimming for 5 months. The prior trimmer was trimming her extremely short, and I expected her to have nice feet in 6 weeks, so I was puzzled. The owner swore she was on straight grass hay diet. Everything else in the diet was perfect,but the mare had persistent stretched white line and I felt she was getting alfalfa! Trusted the owner but… gut feeling…. the wall was smashed flat at the base, and the sole was thin and flat.

I’m impatient. I was wondering if mild solar inflammation was causing the wall separation. This is a huge mare! So last trim, we were talking about putting on glue-ons (size 5!!) on her to get her wall to grow out a bit and decided to hold off, decided to try deep saw dust in the paddock and boots for all exercise.  And if that didn’t work, try boots and pads 24×7 to see if it changed anything.

So 4 weeks ago, the owner discovered that the feeders had been feeding her alfalfa as a treat! She’s a big mare – maybe they felt sorry for her!!

She stopped that, and this trim, she had ¼” of straight wall, no flair, and GREAT soles!!!


June 2014



Occasionally horses are so uncomfortable that they are unable to lift one or more of their feet for trimming. Examples of scenarios I have run into include:

  • Horses  with musculo-skeletal problems (arthritis and muscular problems) in their back, shoulders or hips
  • Horses with laminitis
  • Horses with joint problems like bone chips in  the knee (common in older OTTB’s and jumpers)
  • Horses with hock problems or stifle problems (common in Gaited horses)
  • Horses with extreme ulcers
  • Some PMU mares who have never learned to lift their feet for trimming and are too big to struggle with


Aries, a +17h Draft TB cross, had a very strong passion for living, strong enough that he loved life fiercely in spite of having most of these problems

He had chronic laminitis with severe coffin bone degeneration, along with many musculo-skeletal problems, stifle and joint problems.

His feet and body were so uncomfortable that he was unable to lift his feet for more than a second or two…. but if he got loose, he would canter away at full speed! He had to be walked with a muzzle on because he was so large that he would literally drag people to the nearest patch of grass…

The only reason he lived as long as he did in this state was  1) his pervasive will to live, and 2) he had excellent support from his boarding stable owner and the other horse owners at the boarding facility (who pitched in to help when needed). His owner had financial constraints. so body-workers, trimmers and the boarding facility owner, Michelle of Harvest Moon Ranchhttp://harvestmoonranch.net/, volunteered to help when we could.



Angle Grinders have four characteristics that make them dangerous to use around horses:

  • They generate a blast of air that startles horses… this usually creates the most problems
  • They are loud
  • They vibrate
  • They revolve at a high speed and can easily get bound-up in a horses tail, trimmer hair, lead ropes etc

There are several approaches to using an angle grinder to trim. There is a lot of information online to help you choose tools; search for ” grinder hoof trim” and be prepared to read! I suggest that anyone wanting to try this do their research and practice technique ahead of time with wood, plastic and rubber to understand how the different materials affect your ability to hang on to the grinder.


  • I remove the grinder shield and post handle
  • Always wear protective glasses
  • Tie up long hair on the trimmer and the horse
  • Wear gloves


Grinders throw off a sharp blast of air, and this is the one characteristic that has the potential to alarm horses.

I stand 4 feet from the horse and have the horse on a long loose lead.

I turn the grinder on and off several times, letting the horse watch and get used to the noise, but not showing it to the horse or making a big deal of it.

I then turn the grinder on and “fan” my face with the air, making happy “ahhh!’ types of noise. I then do this to the owner and anyone else standing by….. I blow their hair around and laugh. Sounds silly, but it works.

With the grinder off, I let the horse smell and inspect it

I stand back, turn the grinder on, I fan my face, the owners face, and the the horses face, and, from a few feet away, fan the horses body and legs.

I don’t restrain the horse forcefully, my goal is to engage the horse so that they trust me and the grinder.



TOOLS – I use a heavy duty Makita angle grinder with a paddle switch. My preferred disc is a 40 or 24 grit flap disc, but I have used an abrasive stone disc also. There is a lot of information online to help you choose tools.. search for ” grinder hoof trim” and be prepared to read!

ENVIRONMENT – I stand horses on a piece of plywood to trim. The grinder flap disc has to go to the ground to get a clean edge on the bevel, and most other surfaces create problems or present hazards. Rubber mats catch the edge of the flap disc and can jerk it out of your hand, metal makes a loud noise when the disc is pressed against it, dirt and sand get thrown up and can get in your eyes or spook the horse. Concrete or asphalt can be used, but a pattern of the horses foot will be left on the surface.

HORSE HANDLING – I also like to work in an open area so the the horse can move away from me if it startles or spooks. I ask the handler to stay alert and stay by me, on the same side of the horse that I’m on. If the horse is the least bit active, I have any observers stand on my side of the horse, behind me and at least 3 feet away.

TRIM OBJECTIVE – The objective is to use the edge of the flap disc to etch a bevel around the edge of the hoof from the lateral (outside) heel wall to the medial (inside) heel wall. Depending on the angle of the hoof wall and the wall thickness, the bevel will be from 1/4 to 1/2 inc high.

The angle of the bevel is roughly perpendicular to the ground.

The top edge of this bevel should parallel the coronet band or growth ring around the front half of the hoof.

If the horse has high heels and is able to life his heel, I get the horses foot at edge of the plywood so the the heels are hanging off the edge, and try to bevel the heels down with the grinder… this sometimes works ok, sometimes doesn’t work at all! Each case is different.


When the training and desensitization goes well, I run through a mental check list, then have the horse holder stand on the same side of the horse as I am on, and I turn the grinder on and, working on a front foot, I lightly touch it to the lower edge of the wall, where the bevel will be. By this time the horse is usually alert but relaxed, and I can continue around the front feet, and then the back.

grinder_TFTT_Aries_01  grinder_TFTT_Aries_02 grinder_TFTT_Aries_03 grinder_TFTT_Aries_04 grinder_TFTT_Aries_05 grinder_TFTT_Aries_06 grinder_TFTT_Aries_07 grinder_TFTT_Aries_08 grinder_TFTT_Aries_09 grinder_TFTT_Aries_10 grinder_TFTT_Aries_11 grinder_TFTT_Aries_12 grinder_TFTT_Aries_13

January 2014

Tis the Season For Thrush!

Below are a few pages of pictures of healthy winter frogs from wet living conditions, like the frog on the right.healthy Frog

Many people believe that thrush starts with wet conditions, and while moisture amplifies the symptoms of a thrush infection, frogs can be very healthy in a super wet living environment.

If your horses frogs are shredded, greasy looking, full of holes and foul smelling, this is a hard time of the year to fix them. BUT it can be done!

Healthy California Fall Frogs
Global Healthy Fall Frogs


Number one is trimming the infected frog back to remove all lose flaps and open up cavities.

Next? Look at diet.

The frog above is the product of a low carb diet and balanced minerals, specifically adding zinc and copper to balance out the iron that is abundant in this horses diet.

Next? If a frog has thrush, I recommend a simple cleaning with a stiff brush and Dawn dish washing detergent to remove the film that protects the bacterial components of thrush.

Topical Treatments

I have a lot of treatments that have worked over the years… what works depends on the horse and what works for the care provider. See my Thrush pages in the Articles list to the left for a lot of older information.

Want to try something new? Here are two new treatments that have been working on chronically thrushy frogs:

December 2013
Tagged ,

Differentiating Webinars VS. Web Seminars

matured and is becoming popular with the horse-owning public. Today’s “webinars” are presentations aimed at educating hundreds of attendees on a very general topic. Questions are fielded, but most are general, as are the responses Most web broadcasting is done as a form of advertizing and is free web-based presentation… the content is good, what we typically get from a good magazine article. But there is limited interaction,

A Web Seminar, Web Clinic or Web Workshop has a smaller group of Participants, from 6 to 20 max, so that everyone gets individual consideration. There can be many Auditors who attend for a significantly lower fee, but they are observers.

My Objective: Limited Participation = Personal Interaction & A High Value Experience!

Collaborative learning is a situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together.

When online web seminars are tailored to a smaller group of participants, those participants are able to interact with high calibre presenters without the expense of travel and event fees, and can do it from the comfort of home.

I envision a web seminar experience where participants can share their case studies and ask detailed questions. Optimally they will provide questions and examples ahead of time so that the presentation can be tailored to the groups needs. For this to be efficient, participant group size should be no more than 15 to 20 people.

Want To Learn More About Web Seminars? Check out the Healthy Hoof Webinars Page

Thanks Sally!

HealthyHoof.com Webinars are sponsored by Sally Hugg of California Trace. http://californiatrace.com/


December 2013

“Our horses don’t have an eating disorder, we humans have a feeding disorder..”


Is the stress in YOUR life resulting in your over feeding your horse? Does your desire to see your horse running loose in a green field mean more than having that horse be healthy? To learn about what your horses nutritional requirements, go to www.DrKellon.com and sign up for the NRC course.

December 2013

Is Your Horse Tender-footed In The Fall & Spring?

Several of my clients horses become tender in the fall & spring, while several others become sore and exhibit signs of laminitis when their diet hasn’t changed. If this is the case with your horse, this may be due to the seasonal rise in ACTH hormones, and this tenderness may be an early symptom of Equine Cushing’s. and if you suspect this, contact your vet for a checkup.

Many people think that a heavy hair coat is the first sign of Cushing’s, but other symptoms like tenderness often precede it. Early detection is a factor in successfully controlling the development and symptoms. If your horse is 13 or older (even younger horses can have Cushing’s), I recommend becoming familiar with the symptoms and a talk with your vet if you have suspicions. For great information, go to http://www.ecirhorse.com/

December 2013
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Join the Whole Horse Health Yahoo Group!


We discuss anything related to generic horse health and being successful with our horses, including diet, hoof care, body work, training, horse rehabilitation, saddle fit, booting and ways to address the many challenges  we face as horse owners, horse care providers. The emphasis her is on holistic horse care when that makes the most sense, and knowing about alternatives when it doesn’t.

December 2013

HealthyHoof.com Hoof Care Business Expansion

Gilroy / San Martin – Starting December 4th, 2013- 6 week cycle
Los Gatos / Santa Cruz / Watsonville – Starting November 21, 6 week cycle
Contra Costa County / Briones – Starting Wednesday,November 6th – 6 week cycle
Portola Valley / Woodside – Starting Friday,November 8th – 6 week cycle
Winters / Sacramento – Starting December 16 on a 5 week cycle
Marin / San Geronimo Road Area – December 5th on a 6 week cycle

Here are links to my Contact Form, my Hoof care & Saddle Fitting Services. New Client Letter. and Getting On The Same Page, explaining what will help us get your horse optimally sound and keep her or him that way.

Thanks! Linda


When I am on-site for hoof care, I offer FREE saddle fit checks for one saddle/horse per person ($25 each for multiple saddles/horses) ; has to be scheduled! No call fee for saddle flocking at a scheduled trim location if I have time for it and if it is scheduled a week in advance!

See this page for saddle fit services and fees http://sonomasaddles.com/services.html

December 2013

Seasonal Feet – Northern California

Gabby, November 19, 2013

In this part of California,just north of San Francisco, we often go 5 or 6 months with little to no rain, so our hooves accumulate a dense,hard sole and frog throughout the summer,and shed it as soon as the heavy rains start in October and November.

The feet below belong to my 22 year old Arab, Gavilan,and at this time of the year, He’s a week into the trim,and we just finished 15 miles of rocky trail, I ride most trails barefoot at this time of the year for casual rides, but put boots on if I’m moving out at a trot or canter because Gab moves better over rocks with the boots.

It’s just started raining, so this weekend will add pictures of the changes in his feet. The page for Gabbys seasonal changes will be here: Gabby_seasoal_2013

December 2013