The hoof wall is comprised of the outer dense layer, the mid layer and the inner
This is at the interface between the insensitive interlocking projections with the
dermal lamellae (sensitive), the living suspension system with the hoof.
Hoof wall horn has three basic components derived from the coronary corium; the tubular
horn grows down the hoof like massed straws, the intertubular horn cements the tublar
horn together and intra tubular horn is more microscopic and has to do with
moisture content within the horn tubules. At the surface the tubular horn is dense,
in the mid region the tubles are more spaced and there is more intertubular horn
At the sole level the lower laminal fringe forms the white line.
Hoof quality and the limitations of nails:
The hoof wasn’t designed to take nails, but man found that it is possible to use
nails in order to hold horseshoes on.
Some horses produce thick strong hard and dense hoof wall, others will grow horn
slowly and the horn doesn’t appear to have the same integrity. Once something is
driven into the hoof it is potentially going to weaken the structure and there is
a way in for ingressive dirt and bacteria.The nails oxidise, which appears to accelerate
the breakdown of the horn in some instances.
In the ideal world we have a hoof without shoes on, but it is not for all.
Some feet appear to have reasonable quality horn but the hoof wall is thin in depth,
and the hooves are ultra sensitive to constriction of any sort -
the horse objects to the nailing, and the discomfort experienced impairs its action.
It is, therefore, logical to assume when attaching a shoe to a hoof, it would be
advantageous if we didn’t have to use nails.
Once the shoe is nailed on, all the stresses and strains it is subjected to are transferred
up through the nails attaching it to the hoof wall.
So, in these cases nailing may not be possible – if a large portion of the hoof breaks
away, or if there is insufficient horn in which to nail without encroaching into
Sole view toe quarter
Most diseases of the hoof wall originate at ground level, through tearing, a foreign
becoming lodged or bacteria filled dirt.
There appear to be bacteria that will affect specific areas of the hoof wall; sometimes
they involve only the white line laminal layer, destroying the union, other times
only the mid layer of the hoof wall is involved which splits into layers.
Sometimes the hoof wall becomes very porous, the intertubular horn seems to be breaking
down; the horn appears like bristles without anything holding them
together; suggesting to me that intertubular horn is more susceptible to disease.
To alleviate these problems the horse needs a healthy balanced diet, clean airy living
conditions, any bacteria attacking the horn needs to be dealt with, and the hoof
integrity maintained as much as possible.
There are disinfectants available which can address the bacterial problems.
With regard to compromised hoof capsules there are a range of adhesives, plastics
and alternative methods of protecting and rebuilding the hoof, even keeping the horse
work whilst the hoof is recovering.
Long term alternatives are also available. Farriers, vets and scientists are making
headway in this area, notably Dr. Sue Dyson at the Animal Health Trust.
There are solutions, a number of procedures that farriers can carry out now, that
certainly fifteen years ago were not practised or apparently possible.