Healthy Hooves, Inside and Out

Horse hooves aren’t created equal, which can make it hard to understand the healthy foot’s form and function.
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By Ric Redden, DVM, with Christy West

Do your horse’s hooves have these healthy characteristics?

Much has been written about the equine foot, yet many of us know little about how it’s really supposed to look and work. Sound horses don’t all have the same size or shape feet (just like humans), and that fact often makes it more difficult to understand the healthy foot’s form and function.

This means we can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to say what makes a healthy foot. We have to learn about how the horse’s foot is built and how it works, and we must understand how individual variation changes the equation. With that understanding, we can look at our horses’ feet and identify characteristics that are healthy, and those that hint at problems in the making.

Outside of the Healthy Foot

The healthy hoof wall is a semi-rigid, keratinized (nonsensitive) structure that protects underlying structures and supports weight along with the sole and frog. It has a hard, dense, naturally polished surface with distinct tubules that run straight (not flared) from the coronary band (at the hairline) to the ground. The wall should be intact, not cracked or chipped, and it should have a dense, tight tubular pattern. The toe is the thickest part of the wall and should be at least three-eighths of an inch thick in most mature breeds. It thins at the widest point of the foot and thickens again as it reaches the turning point at the heel

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