The sole of the hoof is that part which is bordered by the white line and the frog. The parts of the hoof that normally contact the ground on an unshod horse are the dorsal wall (the hard hoof) and the frog. Normally, the sole of the hoof does not come into contact with the ground.
What causes bruised soles?
Beneath the sole lies sensitive blood filled tissue called laminae. This tissue connects the sole to the pedal bone of the hoof. Injury to the laminae causes bleeding between the sole and the pedal bone. This can form a bruise or haematoma, which is a blister filled with blood, beneath the sole and therefore cause pain and lameness.
Injury to the laminae occurs due to the horse treading on a stone or another hard object, particularly when on stony hard ground. Other causes include poor fitting shoes and excessive work on hard ground, especially in horses that are unshod. Some horses with particularly sensitive soles may become lame after foot trimming when they do not have shoes replaced.
What are the signs of a bruised sole?
The most obvious sign of a bruise is lameness. The lameness usually develops immediately the bruise occurs but may reappear the next day once the horse has seemingly recovered. The lameness should be confined to the affected leg and pressure applied with hoof testers should demonstrate the area of the sole affected.
How can I prevent sole bruises?
All horses’ feet should always be picked and thoroughly cleaned out before exercise. Exercise on uneven and stony ground should be avoided, particularly for thin-soled horses. Regular attention from a competent farrier will ensure that your horses’ feet are in optimal condition. Specific supplements are also available which can aid in hoof health, as well as protective hoof pads. Advise on both of these products can be obtained from your veterinary surgeon.