In the last three posts we examined the different reasons as to why hoof capsules get stressed and distorted. In today’s final instalment we conclude with a discussion about the sole and its function. We also look at the inevitable consequences of stress created by hoof capsule distortions.
The sole is designed to protect and cushion sensitive structures of the hoof including the coffin bone. The actual live sole thickness averages around 3/8th of an inch. On top, or one might say below it, one should encounter callous or dead sole. The dead sole protects the live sole from the impact of rocks and from bacteria.
Do flat-footed horses have thinner soles? That question is often asked.
A thin sole can be flat or very concave. The difference between a flat sole and a concave sole is merely that the coffin bone sits higher in the hoof capsule and is therefore better protected. While a flat-footed horse with the same sole thickness might flinch every time he steps on a pepple, a concave hoof will have additional space where the rocks will touch the sole to a lesser degree and with less force. Flat-footed hooves are mostly genetic in the beginning; barefoot trimming and barefoot riding can help somewhat to create little more concavity in the hoof. But for the most part each horse’s hoof concavity is genetically predisposed and will remain the same throughout a horse’s life.
Conversely, a concave hoof may very well develop into a flat hoof if serious white line destruction exists or if the horse founders or if a trimmer is knife-happy and trims the sole too thin. Then the coffin bone will not receive enough protection and resistance and it will drop within the hoof capsule. A concave hoof can never get achieved by paring out more sole to create the optical appearance of concavity. Quite the contrary: the sole will drop even more because it does not have enough strength and substance to withstand the downward pressure exerted by the coffin bone.
So the question might be asked: does it just seem that flat-footed horses experience more bacterial infection, thrush, white line disease and fungi invasion? To find the answer, let’s look at the modus operandi of the invaders.
Bacteria and fungi are everywhere. Without them there would be no life on earth. Normally they are part of the ecosystem and cause no problems unless there is a systemic imbalance and external disruption, which can be a scenario where the horse is nutritionally deficient and then suffers a stone bruise. Flat footed horses are just more prone to suffer stone bruises. So as soon as there is a weak spot in the system, in our case the hoof, the hostile invasion can begin in earnest.
Bacterial invasion everywhere: notice the white line destruction. This hoof could have a false sole with fungal infection below it.
Another example of a hoof suffering of severe bacterial and fungal attack because of HCD. This is an inevitable and predictable consequence of HCD.
After a trim the hoof looks better but the weakened structures are still clearly visible.
Favorable conditions for fungal and bacterial infections:
– Unbalanced horse hoof trimming
– Poor nutrition
– Bodily and environmental stress
– Depressed immune system
– Lack of air/oxygen
– Strengthening of the immune system
– Healing of any injuries
– Proper hoof trimming techniques
– Balancing the hoof
– Cleaning and drying infected areas of the hoof
– Exposing the affected hoof to air and oxygen
– Applying anti fungal and antibacterial topical medications
After trimming the stressed hoof, thoroughly clean all the crevices with a wire brush. Dry them well, then apply anti fungal solutions with a cotton swab. Make sure the solution goes as deep as possible into the openings, otherwise surface tension of the medication will often prevent deep penetration and untreated pockets will remain.
After careful application of anti fungal and antibacterial remedies, you then may use treatments like Sole Pack, Venice Turpentine or Pine Tar and push it deep into the crevasses to prevent dirt and new bacteria to enter again, before turning the horse out or applying boots. These dense and high viscous materials stick very well in the damaged fissures.
At Global Endurance Training Center we have tested various anti fungal and hoof care products on the market for several years now. For a more detailed report of our findings, visit our blog on our website.
This concludes my four part series on HCD. Future postings will address case studies and other helpful tips and observations which I have collected over the years.
Ride fast or slow, but always enjoy every moment on your horse. Life is just too short not to.