The Healthy Hoof

horse! A horse, My kingdom for a horse! But please...“no hoof, no horse.” In the healthy hoof, the angle of the hoof-wall at the front and the angle of the pastern should agree. Ideally, in the front-foot, the toe-tip to coronary band angle should rise from the ground to around 55 degrees. The hoof wall throughout should be thick, solid, crack-free with small, uninterrupted growth rings from heel-bulb around to heel-bulb. The sole should be thick, slightly concave, with a solid, level heel-base and frog. It is common for the two front hooves to vary in size. They should be trimmed or shod with that difference maintained.

The outer layer of the hoof wall is known to veterinarians and farriers as the stratum externum, or hoof varnish, and it is produced by the coronary band at the hoof-hair line and grows down the wall toward the ground. It is thin, but similar in composition to the rest of the hoof wall. Biochemical differences are found between the outer “varnish” layer and the rest of the hoof wall. When the varnish thickens more than normal it is called perioplic hyperplasia and it does not wear away at the same rate as the rest of the hoof material dries out and often turns white and flakes. If this is happening to your horse, the cause should be determined by your competent farrier and veterinarian.

For a comprehensive discussion of the hoof, visit Dr. David Hood’s scholarly articles on the horse at If you have a keen interest in horses and hooves, but don’t wish to give up your kingdom for it, I recommend that you subscribe at for the best discussion on horse wheels.

Dr. Don Höglund is the author of “Nobody’s Horses” (purchase at

©Southern States Cooperative, Inc., Reprinted with permission.

© 2004-2012 Horse Tack Review

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