Digital Cushion

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, …

Navicular Disease

Navicular disease is the name given to the pain in the area of the navicular bone. It may involve inflammation of the navicular bursa, cartilage or tendon destruction, and bone changes. Pain may be mild or severe.

The signs of navicular disease include pointing the toe of the afflicted foot with the heel off the ground. Changes take place in the form of the hoof and it becomes contracted at the heel. Skilled use of hoof testers is the best …

Rocker-toe Shoe

The rocker-toe shoe is frequently used in conjunction with the egg bar to alleviate tension on the deep flexor tendon at the moment of breaking over. The amount of bend in the rocker-toe can be determined by looking at the wear on the old shoe or the wear on the toe of the barefoot horse.

The rocker-toe is valuable to help horses suffering from:

The rocker-toe also reduces stress on …

Sliding Plates

Sliding plates are shoes used on the back feet of reining horses to help them slide across the ground while they are in the sliding stop.

Sliders should be long and U-shaped. The toe should be round and rolled slightly. The shoe heel should be extended back to the end of the hoof bulbs. An important feature of sliding plates is that the inside heel should be narrower and longer than the outside heel.


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Common Hoof Problems

Many problems can occur within the horse’s hoof. This article addresses common hoof problems, including abcesses, cracks, sole bruises, and corns.



Abscess is an infection of the sensitive tissue of the foot. Abscesses result in varying degrees of lameness, depending on the severity of the abscess. Symptoms include the hoof being hot and an increased pulse. The abscess will take the path of least resistance and migrate up the hoof and break out at the coronary band. Once …

External Parts of the Horse Hoof

Horse's hoof


A horse’s hoof can be divided into five areas: the wall, the sole, the frog, the periople, and the white line. Hoof growth occurs by cell division of the horn-producing cell layer (stratum germinativum) of the sensitive structures. The hoof wall bears the majority of the horse’s weight and is the most subject to trauma. The hoof wall is visible when the horse is standing.

The wall. The wall is related to the papillae of the sensitive coronary band …

Blood Pumping Mechanism of the Hoof

Blood is pumped from the heart through arteries to the hoof and is assisted in its return through a “pumping mechanism” in the hoof. This mechanism is necessary due to the position of the hoof in relation to the heart. There are no muscles in the lower leg or hoof to aid in the return of venous blood to the heart. Thus, the hoof has to pump venous blood back to the heart.

An extensive network of veins called a …

Evaluating the Hoof and Trim Job

Ensuring that a horse’s hooves are properly trimmed and balance can help to prevent lameness. This article discusses how to evaluate the hoof and how it is trimmed.

To evaluate the hoof, watch the horse move, and look for limb interference and faulty movement. Observe the position of the hooves when the horse is standing squarely on the ground. The hooves should be uniform and balanced. There should not be any flaring in the quarters or curling of the toe.…

Bones of the Hoof

Labelled bones of the Horse's hoof


Long pastern bone. The long pastern bone is located between the fetlock and pastern joint. The long pastern bone should be about one-third the length of the cannon bone. The function of the long pastern bone is to increase the flexibility of the fetlock joint and reduce concussion. The length, flexibility, and slope of the pasterns strongly influence the smoothness of the horse’s gait.

Short pastern bone. The short pastern bone is located between the long pastern bone and …

How a Horse’s Hoof Grows

Hoof growth is one of the most important considerations in hoof physiology. Hoof growth occurs from the coronary band down toward the toe. The average hoof grows 1/4 to 3/8 inch per month. Since the average hoof is 3 to 4 inches in length, the horse grows a new hoof every year.

Rapidly growing hooves are considered to be higher quality and easier to keep properly trimmed and shod. Factors that effect hoof growth are age, season, irritation or injury …