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Healthy Hoof

A healthy hoof is basically a hoof that is in an equilibrium, doesn't deteriorate and allows the horse to stand in relaxed position and run troublefree. As everything in nature, the shape and angles of hooves vary. There are however some rules, that depend on general physics.

Design of the Hoof Capsule

The hoof capsule made of keratin like a fingernail, its horn is formed by the cells of the corium. Below you see the hoof capsule taken off a dead hoof, with the corium exposed.

The corium is about 3 mm thick, surrounds the coffin bone, lateral cartilage and digital cushion and
consists of different areas that form horn with different properties:

1) the coronet forms the hard horn of the hoof wall, it grows downward
2) the lamellar corium forms softer "cement horn" that attaches the hoof wall to the corium,
so the hoof wall can grow down like on rails
3) the sole corium forms the softer sole horn, which is around 8-15 mm thick. In a healthy hoof,
it starts crumbling by itself at a certain thickness, builds a tougher upper layer (callous) when
exposed to pressure and shows the same shape as the bottom side of the coffin bone
4) the frog corium forms the rubber-like frog horn. Look at its shape, this is about how a healthy
frog should look like

The corium has a very high metabolic activity, is very vascular with fine capillaries, and contains nerves.
If the hoof capsule puts too high pressure or stress onto the corium, e.g. because it deforms in an unphysiologic way, this causes -> pain. The horse tries to avoid the pain by changing its stance or walking "crookedly".
When the lamellar corium becomes inflamed - this may happen due to different reasons - it causes a highly painful swelling. This is called -> founder. It may lead to a separation of the hoof wall from the lamellar corium.

Optimum Shape of the Hoof Capsule

1) Straight (or plane) coronet
2) Straight hoof walls when seen from the coronet down, no flaring
3) Direction of growth almost perpendicular to hairline
4) Coronet-toe angle: ~ 95° in hind hooves or ~ 105° in front hooves
5) ~ 30° hairline to ground, this angle may show natural variation (+)
6) Outline of the hoof print (hoof wall) should be symmetric to the outline of the sole

Ground Parallel Coffin Bone

The coffin bone is well connected to the tough coronary band. Thus, when looking at the coronet,
we can estimate the position of the coffin bone inside of the hoof capsule. The toe wall may be
separated from the coffin bone and cannot be taken as a reference.

With a 30° hairline angle, the coffin bone is close to ground parallel. Out of a physical view, this
would be the optimum angle for load distribution. The hoof is however no static building, it deforms
with load. This deformation is called hoof mechanism and must be taken into account.

The sole and bars form a natural arch under the hoof (-> Article by KC LaPierre). It is like a spring,
it's strength depends on the amount of structure in the hoof. A wild horse that has grown up on
hard ground would develop a thicker sole and a stronger and higher arch, than the same horse
living on soft ground. This would develop a rather thin sole and flat arch.
This natural, functioning arch, that shares in weightbearing, is expanding in axial and lateral direction
upon loading of the hoof and does thus not collide with internal structures. It must not be mixed up
with unhealthy and non-functioning structures like the arch formed by sole contraction in the chapter
-> navicular.

The principle found by KC LaPierre (HPT method) is: Structure + Function = Performance

Explanation with some interpretation by myself:

-> a hoof needs good, healthy, elastic structure, that is able to resist the demand (shock and stress) without taking harm or being destroyed
-> the strength of the structure must not be too high, function must still be possible in the given environment and with the given demand
-> the structure must be in the right place, so that a physiologic hoof mechanism (function) is possible
-> function is not only the "classic hoof mechanism" (expansion of the hoof walls), but includes
every distortion of the hoof capsule, like torsion, local shifting of horn tubules, pressure on sole,
in general: everything that changes the volume of the corium.
-> structure can be built by training, that means exposure to stimulation, which of course must not
exceed the weightbearing (elastic) limits of the current structure
-> a horseshoe adds artificial structure to the hoof, but also decreases its exposure to stimulation
which leads to weakening inner structure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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