The digital cushion is a wedged-shaped structure with a fibro-fatty composition in the foal and in the colt, and it hardens into a fibrocartilagineous tissue in the adult horse. It is very elastic and has very few blood vessels and nerves.
It is located in a wedged-in position between the lateral cartilages on the side, then deep flexor tendon on the top and the frog on the bottom and rear. It separates the frog and the bulb from underlying tendons, joints, and bones, providing cushioning protection.
When it is compressed by the pastern bones and frog, it absorbs shock and cushions the bones. As weight is placed on the hoof, pressure is transmitted through the phalanges to the wall and onto the digital cushion and frog. The frog, a highly elastic wedge-shaped mass, normally makes contact with the ground first. The frog presses up on the digital cushion, which flattens and is forced outward against the lateral cartilages. The frog also is flattened and tends to push the bars of the hoof wall apart. When the foot is lifted, the frog and other flexible structures of the foot, such as the digital cushion, return to their original position.
See External Parts of the Horse Hoof for more information.
Originated from the American Youth Horse Council’s
Horse Industry Handbook
The umbrella organization providing leadership and resources for the youth horse industry.