Anything to make him feel better and avoid shoes
Owning one thin soled horse myself who has been barefoot for 8+ years, these are my tips (some mentioned before)...
- Keep a good trim on the horse. Talk to your farrier before he starts. Many farriers love to go nuts with the hoof knife, but a thin soled horse needs all the sole it can get. Unless there is a medical reason (e.g. Thrush), I would not remove any
sole during a trim. If you are considering boots, have your farrier measure while he is out. Boots are great, but can be hard to fit depending on the shape of the hoof.
- As mentioned, wetness is your enemy. Not only does it soften the sole, but on very soft/muddy ground, your horse's sole will come down on all those rocks that are buried in the top few inches of the ground. If possible, find a dry area for your horse and use one of the sole hardeners (Iodine/venice turpentine). You would be amazed that a horse with a bad bruise will be perfectly sound when it's dry, and terribly lame after being in the mud for a day....it makes that much difference.
- A good, well balanced diet (of course).
- Hoof boots will protect the sole and help keep it drier. They also keep mud from packing up under the sole adding to the pressure, especially if you have a lot of terrible red clay like we do. Many boots can be used for both rehab and riding and you can read all about them at EasyCare Inc. | The Leader in Hoof Boots and Natural Hoof Care
(a popular brand). For a horse recovering from a sole bruise in pasture situations (non-riding) when it's very wet, I'll wrap the hoof with a diaper and duct tape (similar to treating an abscess) to keep it dry and provide some padding. It's cheap and you don't have to worry about losing expensive boots in the pasture or potential chaffing, but you do have to re-do it every couple days when the horse wears through the duct tape (typically at the heel).
...and finally, be patient, don't give up, and give your horse time to recover. It can easily take 1-2 months to recover from bad sole bruises, but with hardened soles and good care, many thin soled horses can do very well without shoes or even boots (we rarely put boots on our thin soled mare, even on rocky ground).