Anatomy of the Horse Hoof

anatomy of horse hoof

The horse hoof is a complex structure with many functions. It bears the weight of the animal, protects its internal structures from harm and acts like a spring, storing and releasing energy during the different phases of the gait to aid movement. It also helps the horse to balance itself as it walks and acts as a shock absorber. An understanding of the anatomy of the horse hoof is essential for a farrier, veterinarian and horse owner.

The hoof capsule consists of different cornified specialized structures. The outermost part is known as the coronet band and can be divided into several areas, including the toe, quarters and heels. The walls of the hoof are longer in the dorsal (front) part of the hoof and shorter in the lateral (outer) or palmar/plantar (heel) part.

At the center of the hoof is a wedge-shaped area called the frog. It consists of two concave surfaces called crura and a central sulcus surrounded by an area of softer, more water-rich horn called the solar corium. The frog is an important load-bearing surface and serves as a shock absorber. In addition, the frog contains a group of specialized dermal papillae that contain a network of anastomosing blood vessels and a duct that carries nutrients to the corium.

Above the frog is the sole, a flat, concave surface that provides additional support to the horse. The sole is drained by a series of veins, including the coronary, independent and frog dermal. In addition, the sole is drained via an equine digital cushion.

Inside the hoof capsule is the distal phalanx (coffin bone; pedal bone, P3), which is suspended in the hoof capsule by the inner lamellae of the dermal corium. These lamellae are arranged in a row and are interlocked to form the horny white line that binds wall to sole and provides some of its strength.

The sole of the foot is a dense, water-resistant keratinized material that has a strong, elastic bond with the hoof wall. This unique feature makes it an excellent shock absorber. The sole is drained by an extensive network of vascular channels including the periople, coronary and frog dermal, sulcus and terminal papillae veins.