Horse Hoof Anatomy: A Guided Tour

Knowing how the hoof is built and what it is capable of can help you understand what it needs to stay healthy and recover if compromised.
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horse hoof anatomy
As a horse owner/caretaker, knowing the basics of hoof anatomy and physiology can help you keep your horses sound and bring them back from lameness more quickly. | Photo: iStock

Learn how your horse’s feet work so you can understand how to keep them sound.

Clip. Clop. The simple hoofbeats of your moving horse effectively hide the highly complex anatomy and physiology at work inside his hooves during each step.

As a horse owner/caretaker, knowing the basics of hoof anatomy and physiology can help you keep your horses sound and bring them back from lameness more quickly. Plus, it certainly helps to understand what the heck your veterinarian and/or farrier are talking about if your horse comes up lame.

Andrew Parks, MA, Vet MB, MRCVS, Dipl. ACVS, head of the Department of Large Animal Medicine at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in Athens, puts it like this: “Understanding anatomy is a prerequisite to understanding physiology. Owners need to know what’s in the foot for many day-to-day reasons; for example, if the horse steps on a nail, they need to know what structures might be damaged so they know how serious it could be.” (Hint: A nail puncture in the middle third of the frog is particularly dangerous because the nail could damage several critical structures

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Written by:

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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