What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Dropped Sole or Flat-Footed


"Flat-footed" or "dropped sole" refers to a sole that lacks the normal cup-like concavity to the ground surface. This conformation can be genetic in origin or it can result from disruption of the hoof structure. Some horse breeds and genetic lines simply have little concavity to the sole, but truly flat feet are often a sign of a damaged hoof. Flat feet tend to be more common in front feet.

Laminitis, which is inflammation and breakdown of the attachments of the hoof, can cause movement of the coffin bone within the foot and result in a collapsed "dropped" sole. Excessive trimming may also result in the loss of concavity. Horses with dropped soles tend to bruise more easily and shoes may put pressure on the soles, resulting in lameness.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you notice lameness in addition to this sign.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you want information on how to manage horses of this conformation to reduce the likelihood of lameness.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse for lameness, and assess all of your horse's feet, paying particular attention to whether one or more feet are flat-footed. Assess the horse for lameness at walk and trot. Feel for digital pulse and heat.

Look for the other characteristics of chronic laminitis such as uneven growth rings on the hoof wall, collapsed (dish) of the front hoof wall, and widened white line. Always compare one foot to the others for reference. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

your vet's role

Your vet examines the hooves and may conduct a lameness exam. They consider this finding in light of whether or not lameness is present and other changes in the hoof that suggest a diagnosis of laminitis. Radiography is the standard test to determine the position of the coffin bone (P3) within the hoof.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Do you notice digital pulse or heat in the foot?
  • Do all the feet seem flat footed?
  • Is the horse lame or stiff?
  • Does the white line appear widened?
  • Does the front (dorsal) hoof wall appear dished or concave?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP