The horse’s hoof is an amazing structure, with layers and layers of tissue and function. The hoof wall is the barrier between the bones inside, as well as the soft tissue structures that hold your horse up!
The hoof wall is a changing structure, as is grows about 6 to 9mm a month. In a year’s time, most horses will have totally regrown their hoof wall. The majority of tissue in the hoof wall is keratin, and it’s about 25% water. If your horse is shod, the horse shoe nails go through the hoof wall.
This hoof is coated in polish, ready to hit the show ring.
The stratum tectorium is the outermost layer, and creates a bit of shine on the hoof wall. The periople is the top 20mm or so of the stratum tectorium, and protects the coronary band as well as helping to control evaporation of moisture from the hoof.
The thickest part of the hoof wall is the stratum medium. This layer is also pigmented, which gives dark hooves their color. This layer of hoof wall contains cornified skin cells, which are surrounded by horn. These structures are arranged into tubes. This part of the hoof wall bears the weight of your horse, and tends to be thicker at the toe. It functions to spring back after your horse steps down, which helps to propel him forward. Nothing can penetrate a healthy stratum medium.
The innermost layer of hoof wall is the stratum lamellatum. This layer is highly flexible, and attaches to the tender inner structures of the hoof. It does allow the pedal (or coffin) bone to move inside the hoof.
A healthy hoof wall will not have any rings or cracks. Working with a Farrier on a regular basis will help you stay ahead of any hoof wall problems. If you inspect the hooves daily while checking the digital pulse, you can stay ahead of many hoof problems.
This hoof has a shoe removed for Farrier work, before the trim.