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Farrier Wisdom
Horse Facts and Tips
First Posted Apr 1, 2009
Sep 27, 2017

Horse Hooves - So What Are They? Why Are They So Strong?

"Horse hooves are among the most crack-resistant substances in the natural world, about twenty times tougher than bone. As such, they may provide clues to researchers hoping to develop stronger materials for human use. Horse hooves, like human fingernails, are composed of cells housing braided filaments of keratin. From cell to cell, the braids run in the same direction. In hooves, these cells are glued together into horizontal sheets. The sheets are punctuated vertically with thin, hollow tubes, each of which is surrounded by several sleeves of cells. Although cracks may travel horizontally along the sheets, they are generally stopped by the tubes." Why Do Hooves Crack?

What Factors Cause Weak Hooves

  • Genetics
  • Environmental Factors
  • Disease
  • Care

"...Wet hooves are worse than dry hooves, says O'Grady: "With wet or dry hooves, you're talking about the hoof capsule. The inner structures still have good circulation and are still working. It's the outer part that has the change in structure. Being soft from too much moisture, you're losing your structural integrity. A soft hoof has too much elasticity and too much flexibility. The foot no longer has the strength it should..."

"...Stabling horses on wood products to dry hooves out, giving horses fewer baths, limiting hoof dressing usage, and keeping your horse in a clean and sanitary environment are all steps you can take to keep your horse's hooves as dry and as healthy as possible. And as always, consult with your veterinarian and farrier to make sure you are providing proper management for your horse to ensure good hoof health..." Managing Wet Feet

For More Information:

Horse Hoof Bones
Horse Hoof
Horse Hoof Parts/Underside
Biomechanics and Hoof Problems, Treatment (AAEP 2012)
Trail Horse Hoof Care

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