Picture of horse leg anatomy diagram – this custom veterinary anatomical illustration is a lateral view of the equine deep musculature which includes tendons, ligaments and bones. It was created for a client who works with performance horses and wanted to illustrate the important structures of this impressive athletic animal.
The horse hoof is a highly vascular structure, with an unusual density of blood vessels within it. This blood supply provides nutrients to the keratinous lamellae (the hoof wall), facilitates growth and repair, dampens impact shock and helps regulate the temperature of the hoof.
As the horse moves, the outer horn of the hoof is compressed. This compression causes the outer hoof wall to grow thicker. A healthy hoof wall will be pigmented, be free of prominent growth rings and have a tough, waterproof coat. The outer hoof wall is also almost impermeable, so water and other substances which come into contact with it will not penetrate the hoof.
From the front of the hoof, the wall extends up over the fetlock joint to the pastern. Its job is to bear the horse’s weight and protect internal structures from damage. It is also used as a spring, storing and releasing energy during different phases of the stride.
A healthy hoof has an inner wall that is a bit more dense than the outer. It is a bit darker and contains a few more growth rings than the outer. It is a good idea to make sure the inner wall of the hoof is free from cracks, flaring and chips as it is an important structural component.
The frog is located between the medial and lateral hoof cartilages on the ventral surface of the distal phalanx. The frog has a single median structure proximally, and it splits into two bilateral symmetrical ridges distally. The frog is surrounded by soft keratinous lamellae, and it is covered by distinct corium and papillae which have germinating properties.
The sole of the foot is located under the pedal bone. It is thick and has a distinctive pattern of ridges which are oriented perpendicular to the direction of the hoof wall. The sole is also covered by a rich marrow which has germinating properties.
In a healthy foot, the toe of the hoof should be short enough so that when the horse lifts the hoof it can break over quickly. It is generally accepted that a positive palmar angle is the ideal. This is because it promotes hoof health, helps with the transfer of power from the horse to the ground and prevents the excessive stress which can occur when the hoof has a negative palmar angle. The ideal length of the toe will vary from horse to horse depending on their activity level and breed. However, a toe that is too long can cause excessive wear and tear on the frog and the inner structures of the foot. This can lead to injury and poor performance.