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What is a thin-soled horse?

Many domestic ridden horses have soles as thin as 5mm and are not thick enough to be ridden without some protection of boots or shoes.

The hooves of a horse were designed to be the strongest part of the horse with thick soles of at least 10mm thick to protect the delicate structures within the hoof. They should be able to move at speed over varying terrains without discomfort. This is even more important when carrying the extra weight of a human on their backs.

Many domestic ridden horses have soles as thin as 5mm and are not thick enough to be ridden without some protection of boots or shoes.

Horses with thin soles will shorten their stride when they have to move over hard or rocky ground – they will always try to steer away from harder ground to softer areas when ridden.

Why does my horse have thin soles?

There are several reasons that can cause thin soles.


There are several breeds that have thinner soles in general. For example, hot-blooded horses, like Thoroughbreds, have thinner skin, hoof wall and soles to help dissipate heat and lighten their body mass to run more efficiently.

Conformation of the foot also plays a role in the thickness of the sole. Flat footed horses who lack the natural concave shape to their sole will often be thin soled. Horses with a higher arch will generally have a thicker sole.

Trimming and shoeing
Trim sole

The way a horse is trimmed and shod can improve the arch and with that, the sole depth.

The shape of the hoof affects the arch as the hoof wall is connected to the sole of the foot. If the wall flares it will pull the sole and flatten the arch. Decreasing the flare with good trimming and shoeing methods will improve the arch.

Continual trimming of the sole – especially in an effort to try to artificially create a concave sole – can contribute to the problem.

A well-trimmed foot should require almost no knife work after the foot is in balance; it will grow and shed the sole on its own.

Hooves in mud

A constantly wet environment can weaken the connective bonds in the keratin causing it to lose its protective qualities and strength.

Mechanical abrasion and fungal infection of the sole and hoof will compromise the depth of sole.

A thicker sole can be grown

The necessary cushioning of the sole is the callous formation and although the sole grows quite quickly, this develops slowly.

Growing a thicker sole relies on diet, movement and environment.

Feed pellets

Thin soles can be caused by laminitis so controlling your horse’s diet and sugar intake are imperative.

Mineral imbalances where there is a lack of the vital minerals – zinc, copper, methionine and biotin – needed for hoof growth are a common cause of thin soles.

A good quality complete hoof health supplement such as The Aussie Farrier Hoof growth formula can solve this problem and set you on the path for thicker soles.

Bear and cone

Horses are made for movement. Exercise at the walk and the trot on good surfaces helps to increase the blood flow to your horse’s hooves.

Movement stimulates the hooves and sole to grow. Loading and unloading the foot with every step increases the metabolic activity to the foot and causes it to produce better hoof and thicker soles.


If a horse has to endure a wet environment it is important to get the hooves to dry out for as long as possible.

Creating a pebble yard within your paddock where you horse can be put for periods of time to dry out their feet can be a solution to all this wet weather and mud.

The pebbles need to be a smooth river type and should be about 20cm thick to allow the water to drain.

It is important to recognise if your horse has thin soles and to use protection - particularly when they are ridden.

Speak to your farrier and vet with regards to the many protective solutions available.

Your horse is not being a wimp - pedal bones can be fractured or damaged when a thin-sole strikes a rock with force.