The Anatomy and Physiology of the Hoof
How the Hoof Fits Into the Anatomy and Physiology of the Horse:
The best place to start is with a basic understanding of how the hoof fits into the anatomy and physiology of the horse. The largest organ (glandular structure) of the horse is the dermal tissue, a voracious consumer of nutrients which includes not only the hooves, but also the skin, hair follicles, sweat glands, oil glands and related structures. Because these parts share common nutrient needs and utilization, it is impossible to nutritionally improve the condition of the hooves without also achieving an improved mane, tail and coat.
Hooves Serve as a Highly Reliable Indicator of Your Horse's Dermal Health:
What sets hooves apart and makes them more vulnerable than other dermal structures is their function. Because they serve as the barrier between your horse and his germ-laden environment, hooves are critical to overall equine health. And since they show weakness or defect more quickly than the other dermal structures (due to their location and function) hooves also serve as a highly reliable indicator of your horse's dermal health. Of course, paying daily attention to a horse's feet comes naturally to active horse people, as the consequences of not detecting the early signs of poor hoof health or trauma can be dire.
Genetics Determine all Physical and Chemical Characteristics of the Horse Including the Hoof:
Hooves reflect the fact that every horse is an individual, with a home (environment), a family (genetics), and a career (discipline) that affect his body and the level of care needed.
You can have two horses in the same barn, on the same diet, competing in the same discipline and level, with the same farrier, and one has healthy feet, and the other can barely hold shoes on a week at a time. In this case, even though the diet is the same, the culprit is still likely to be nutrition. That's because two otherwise similar horses have many genetic differences‚ and genetic makeup plays a big role in how nutrients are absorbed and utilized. Begin to vary diet or environment, and the complexity of hoof health and appropriate care becomes apparent.
All Horses Require Certain Nutrients as building Blocks:
Nutritional problem-solving can be especially tough, as there are many essential nutrients required for healthy connective tissue. When horses have poor feet due to dietary factors, it can be hard to determine the exact cause. You can, however, assume he's:
- not receiving the correct nutrients,
- not absorbing them sufficiently, or
- another dietary factor is interfering with nutrient utilization.
If your horse is in the first category, you can start by making sure he's receiving a well-balanced diet of high-quality feed, forage, and a broad-spectrum supplement that provides all the nutrients known to be deficient in a horse with poor feet. If he's not absorbing nutrients or suffering from dietary interference, the information contained on the inside panels may help you solve the mystery, and help you discover the healthy feet you thought your horse could never have.
Here the hoof capsule has been removed and partially cut away to reveal the underlying corium. In healthy hooves, the capsule is tightly attached to the corium by millions of microscopic ligaments. In foundered horses, these ligaments stretch, allowing the capsule to move and press on the coronary band, inhibiting new growth. The healthy corium supplies nutrients to the hooves via blood circulation.