How a Horse's Foot Works

A horse’s hoof wall is so resistant to sudden high stresses that it is considered more fracture resistant than bone. Journal photo A horse’s hoof wall is so resistant to sudden high stresses that it is considered more fracture resistant than bone. Journal photo

January 18, 2018
How a Horse's Foot Works

Ever wondered, “What is a horse’s hoof made up of?” We take you on the journey of understanding the structure of the healthy equine hoof.
From The American Quarter Horse Journal
The equine foot is a mechanical marvel of joints, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels and bone encased within a horny capsule that is vital to the horse.

Dr. Stephen E. O’Grady of Keswick, Virginia, has devoted his professional life to the study of the equine foot, both as a veterinarian and farrier. He’s an acknowledged worldwide expert on equine podiatry who enjoys few things more than educating horsemen, farriers and veterinarians about it.

Want to know even more about your horse's hooves?
Check out the Equine Hoof Health e-book, which goes into the details of keeping your horse's feet healthy.
Hoof Capsule

“The hoof capsule is a protective shell, and its internal dynamic factors rarely change but they are susceptible to damage,” Dr. O’Grady says. “The hoof is the integument (or skin) of the foot. Unlike the skin, which is relatively uniform all over the body, the hoof integument can be divided into five distinct regions - coronary band, hoof wall, sole, frog and heel bulbs.”

“At the heels, the hoof wall is inflected forward and inward at an acute angle to form the bars,” Dr. O’Grady says. “The bars are weight-bearing structures for the palmar (rear) aspect of the hoof. They lend additional strength to the heel and allow for its lateral expansion.”

He points out that the “external influences on the hoof’s form and function include the environment, the horse’s use and, above all, farriery.”
Exactly how important is the maintenance of your horse's feet? Check out the Equine Hoof Health e-book and discover all you need to know about hoof health.
Look for Balance

Again, just as with evaluating other aspects of equine conformation, train your eye to look for balance or conformation in the horse’s foot.

“We don’t really know what a normal foot is,” Dr. O’Grady says, because that qualification is individual to each horse. Instead, Dr. O’Grady looks for a “good” or “functional” foot, from the side, front, rear and bottom.
Read more about hoof health at AQHA Daily.