Q: Are some horses very flat-footed naturally, or is a flat sole a sign of some other problem? Are there times when I should take out more sole to make a flat foot more concave and other times when I shouldn’t? What guidelines should I use?
— Tennessee farrier
A: First, one has to define what being flat-footed is. Is it simply a lack of sole depth, excessive sole giving the foot the appearance of being flat or is it a lack of hoof-wall height?
I believe that some horses, such as Thoroughbreds, are genetically predisposed to flat feet. However, the majority of flat feet are due to other issues such as laminitis, founder and unequal weight bearing, to name a few.
Correct radiographs are necessary to establish exactly how much sole is present and how much, if any, can be safely removed. Without radiographs, sole removal should be done conservatively and cautiously.
— Courtney Caron, Gloucester, R.I.
A: Some horses will have a flatter sole than others and I encounter this on a regular basis. It’s important to note that a flat sole can also be the sign of another pathology. For example, in cases of a unilateral lameness, the contra-lateral hoof will often change shape and become flatter soled from excess weight bearing on the “good limb.”
You’ll also see this in horses with a unilateral clubfoot. Rarely is a flat sole the only abnormality going on within the hoof. Frog quality, shape, size, toe length…