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Glossary of terms of the horses hoof

Uncover the language of the hoof with our comprehensive glossary of equine hoof terms. Perfect for horse owners, professionals, and enthusiasts alike!

It is important to be able to communicate accurately and efficiently with your horses team members to best advocate for your horse or you clients horses. To help you, here is a glossary of terms of the equine hoof featuring popular and commonly used terms used in the hoof care industry.

There might be regional differences in how these terms are used. If you notice an error, or missing terminology, please do reach out to us as we aim to expand on this and make this an evolving and live document. Our email is 

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Glossary of terms of the horses hoof
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Abscess – a typically painful localised infection in the hoof made up of pus and gas where there is a disintegration of tissue which can be caused by toxins, microbes, trauma, or infarction

Angle of the bar – the area of the sole here the bar meets the wall in the heel region

Apex of the frog – the cranial aspect of the frog where it meets the sole distal to the pedal bone

Avascular – structures absent of blood or nerve

Breakover – the last phase of the gait where the hoof leaves the ground

Bursa – a fluid filled sac designed to prevent friction, eg. in a joint

Caudal – directional term – towards the midline of the horse, eg the inside of the left fore hoof

Central sulcus – central groove in the frog

Centre of rotation – or COR, is the point at which the rotational forces on the hoof act and is an important reference point concerning balance in the horses hoof

Coffin Bone – see distal phalanx

Coffin joint – the last bony column joint in the equine limb, also called the distal interphalangeal joint, or DIP joint for short

Collateral groove – also know as frog commissures and is the v shaped channel on the medial an lateral aspect of the frog and allows for 3-dimensional distortion and traction

Corium – vascularised tissue which nourishes the parts of the foot, eg. sole corium

Coronary band – coronal shaped cartilaginous structure which grows the outer wall and aids in haemodynamic resistance in the foot during mid stance

Conformation – this is how a horse was born and is characterized by breeding and genetics and refers to the skeletal system. It is largely unchanging beyond maturation and is static, whereas posture is dynamic and can change readily (see: posture)

Cranial – directional term – the front half of the horses hoof, eg. the toe region

Dampening – the dissipation of energy created through movement via heat dispersal

Dermis – or corium, is the internal sensitive layer of skin which is highly specialised and responsible for growth of the epidermis, our outer hoof capsule. It is responsible for feeling sensations and protecting the subcutaneous tissue of the foot

Digital cushion – a wedged shaped dynamic structure in the caudal hoof made up on fibro cartilage and adipose tissue which changes morphology in response to stimuli with protective and supporting properties

Disease – a disorder of a structure or issue with a known cause and distinct group of symptoms, signs or anatomical changes

Distal – directional term – further most part of a structure or structure to the body, eg. P3 is distal to P2

Distal Phalanx – the most distal bone in the limb, also called P3, third phalanx, coffin bone or pedal bone

Dorsal - directional term – towards the front of the body, eg, the dorsal hoof wall

Dynamic tissue – in the digit this is cartilaginous tissues typically with poor blood and nerve supply which change property and morphology in response to stimulus over time, eg. ungular cartilage, digital cushion and coronet band

Environment – stimulus perceived by the horse which impacts well-being, and can be unhealthy or healthy

Epidermis – or epithelium cells which make up the outer horny tissue of the hoof (eg. wall, sole and frog) which grow from the dermis of the foot, each with a different appearance and purpose

Equine podiatry – the study of the equine digit

Exfoliation – shedding of hoof material no longer receiving nourishment

False sole – sole no longer receiving nourishment but not yet ready to or unable to exfoliate

Flare – distortion in the hoof wall due to unhealthy forces applied to the digit and is classified as pathology

Flexion – dissipation of energy created through movement via elasticity

Foot – everything vascular inside the hoof capsule and below the hairline (including ungular cartilages)

Foot print – an imaginary foot print created by the inner foot of the hoof if the outer capsule was removed – it is used to help visualise healthy balance and growth of the capsule from its foundation from whence it grows

Founder – meaning to collapse or fail and describes failure of the connection between capsule and foot as a result of laminitis, typically with rotation and distal descent of P3

Frog – or insensitive frog, is a dynamic avascular wedged shaped pad of epithelial skin/horn projecting distally from the foot, between the bars and filling the gap between the heels. It has a central groove called the central sulcus, a frog spine which projects proximally between the heels and a groove on each side separating it from the bars called the collateral grooves or frog commissure. It aids in controlled distortion of the hoof, traction, protection and energy distribution of the digit. It is not a ‘heart’ and doesn’t pump blood around the hoof.

Growth rings – visible rings in the hoof wall indicating a change of rate of growth between the inner and outer wall

Haemodynamics – the study of the flow of blood through solid structures as a result of cardiac output and pressure arising from vascular resistance, hydrostatic pressure and gravitational forces as well as kinetic energy of blood flow

Hoof – avascular keratinised epithelial structure or horn which is distal to the hairline of the digit. It is essentially highly specialized skin and grows from the dermis (or corium). The three areas of the hoof with very different characteristic are the hoof wall, the sole and the frog

Hoof print – the print made by the hoof

HoofmApp – a hoof mapping app which can be adapted for mapping posture and even teeth. It is “a tool for quick, easy and cost-effective assessment of the hoof, whether shod or barefoot. It is designed to give information about hoof proportions rather than exact measurements and is a fantastic method of documenting hoof morphology as you create files for each client.” It is a paid for app used on and apple and android smart phones and tablets and can be purchased from apple store: ( or Google store (

Hoof score – a score given to the spectrum of usability of the hoof in accordance to the health and morphology of the hoof, the posture, age, health, development and fitness of the horse

Hoof wall – specialised outer epithelial (skin) keratinised structures compromising the periople, outer wall and inner wall. The hoof wall is continuous with the common dermis of the coronet and is therefore continuous with the skin of the lower limb

Horn tubules - the epidermal (skin) cells of the horn of the hoof wall which originate at the papillae of the coronet band

Heel – the most caudal and palmar/plantar aspect of the horses capsule

Inner wall – the unpigmented hoof wall (stratum internum) which originate on the laminae of the hoof and inside the outer wall. Sometimes called the water line

Insensitive frog – see frog

Insensitive structures – avascular structures without nerve, blood and lymph supply

Intertubular horn – responsible for binding and carrying outer wall tubules to the ground and grown from epidermal cells originating at secondary laminae

Keratoma – horny benign tumorous growth in the hoof

Kinetic energy – energy created during movement or impact

Laminitis – a life threatening and oftentimes complex pathology involving inflammation of the laminae or dermal layer of the foot and can be sub-clinical, acute, sub-acute, or chronic depending on the pathophysiology and whether is considered resolved or unresolved. It has also been categorised based on clinical findings based on radiographic, venogram, hoof morphology and presentation of symptoms associated with it, eg signs of pain, stance, gait, lameness, excess digital pulse, heat and distortions in the capsule

Lateral – directional term – away from the midline of the horse, eg the outer part of the left fore hoof

Lateral cartilage – dynamic and vascular structure of the hoof protruding from the palmar process of the pedal bone and extending to form the heel bulbs and supporting and helping form the entire caudal hoof. It is involved in controlled distortion of the hoof, haemodynamics, protection and energy management of the hoof

Live sole – the sole or the hoof which is still receiving nourishment

Mapping – hoof or posture mapping is a tool which provides information about the health of the structure. It is used for objective, repeatable and accurate assessment, to assist with trimming and shoeing, and in monitoring changes in health or balance over time.

Medial – directional term – towards the midline of the horse, eg the inside of the left fore hoof

Navicular apparatus – also know as the podotrochlear apparatus or PTA, and includes the navicular bone, coffin joint, the navicular bursa, the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT), the impar ligament and the collateral ligament of the navicular bone

Navicular bone – also called the distal sesamoid or sometimes, the podotrochlear bone and occasionally, the shuttle bone

Navicular disease – pathology of the navicular bone

Navicular syndrome – pathology of the structures which make up the navicular region

Negative palmar/plantar P3 angle – see palmar ad plantar P3 angle. Often called NPA, this describes a negative angle of the pedal bone and is associated with increased risk of pathology and lameness in horses. HoofmApp external mark ups can help identify if a horse has a low or NPA and it can be confirmed on balance radiographs of the digit

NPA – see negative palmar or plantar P3 angle

Outer wall – tough pigmented keratin horn called the stratum internum produced at the coronary band providing resistance to wear and distortion and protection to the foot via resistance to distortion

Palmar – directional term – the solar aspect of the FRONT hoof facing away from the body of the horse and continuing up the back of the lower limb to the back of the knee

Palmar or plantar P3 angle – relates to the angle at which the pedal bone sits in the hoof capsule, in relation to the level ground surface. Palmar relates to the front hoof nd plantar relates to the hind hoof

Palmar process – medial and lateral bony extensions of the pedal bone

Pastern Joint – the joint between P1 and P2, also called the proximal interphalangeal joint, or PIP joint for short

Pathology – the study of the cause and effect of disease

Pathological – used to describe an altered state of tissue, collection of issues, structure or body caused by disease

Pedal osteitis – pathology of the pedal bone involving demineralisation of the distal margin of P3, and widening of the vascular channels near the solar margin, observed on radiographs of the hoof

Periople – the true outer wall or stratum externum which forms a protective skin on the outer wall and grows from the coronet band. It is thicker towards the heel bulb, where it blends with the frog

Phalangeal alignment – the alignment and orientation of the phalanges of the equine digit, sometimes called bony column alignment

Phalanges – the last 3 bony column bones in the horses limb which make up the equine digit which are the first phalanx, (also called P1, the proximal phalanx or the long pastern bone), the second phalanx (also called P2, the middle phalanx or the short pastern bone) and the third phalanx (also called P3, the pedal bone, the coffin bone and the distal phalanx)

Plantar – directional term – the solar aspect of the HIND hoof facing away from the body of the horse and continuing up to the back of the lower limb to the hock

Posture – this refers to the position of the horses body and limbs in space and refers to how the skeletal system is orientated and is dynamic and subject to change via internal and external forces and gravity. Posture is autonomic and unconscious. not to be confused with conformation which is largely unchanging throughout the horses life once mature

Proprioception – is the innate ability of understanding where and how to position the body in relation to space and the environment around. In the hoof, proprioceptor reception nerves provide input information received via the capsule which is received by the central nervous system and brain. The CNS and brain send signals called output to the muscle receptors which stimulate synchronised movement to protect the horse and optimise energy efficiency

Proximal – directional term – closer most part of a structure or structure to the body, eg. P1 is proximal to P2

Quarters – the sides of the hoof wall, between toe pillars and heel

Quarter crack – a pathological crack or fissure in the wall in the region of the quarter and a sign of failure of the wall to successfully deal with the forces applied

Quittor – serious infection of the ungular cartilage

Ringbone – disease of the pastern joint (high ringbone) or coffin joint (low ring bone)

Sagittal plane – anatomical plane dividing the body or limb into equal right and left sections

Sand crack – a pathological crack or fissure in the hoof wall originating at the coronet band and a sign of failure of the wall to successfully deal with the forces applied

Seat of corn – a area of sole in the heel region prone to compression and trauma from over-grown wall and bar and the influence of the shoe

Seedy toe – microbial infection of the white line and inner wall, often but not always secondary to laminitis

Sensitive structures – vascular structures with nerve, blood and lymph supply

Side bone – ossification (bone forming) disease of the ungular cartilages usually as a result of trauma or strain

Soft tissue – the blood vessels, nerve and lymph vessels of the foot highly reactive and responsive to change in response to stimuli

Sole – this is the epidermis on the palmar or plantar aspect of the hoof and should be slightly concave and thicker towards the caudal part of the hoof. It serves to protect and support the sensitive structures, wall, heel and bony column. It is an important structure in the hoof and should be a minimum of 1.5cm thick under the tip of the pedal bone in the cranial hoof.

Static tissue – bone tissues in the digit which are the least and the last to change in response to stimuli over time

Stay apparatus – muscles, tendons and ligaments arranged to work together to enable the horse to rest or sleep standing up with minimal effort

Toe – the most cranial part of the hoof

Toe Pillar – the end of the toe on the medial and lateral side of the hoof and separating the quarters from the toe

Ungular cartilage – see lateral cartilage

Widest part of the hoof – or WPOTH – an important reference point in farriery and podiatry sciences, also the centre of rotation (COR) of the coffin joint, located on the sole of the hoof, at the termination of the bar, and the widest part of the hoof at the inner most part of the white line in the non-distorted hoof

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Additional resources and assistance

We take an integrative and holistic approach to whole horse hoof and body health. We appreciate the relationship between body, limb and hoof and seek to address imbalances while positively influencing appropriate static and dynamic hoof balance and biomechanics.

Check out our self study online courses including PRO-Active hoof mapping - how to recognise healthy hooves as well as how to assess and track changes using modern hoof mapping tool HoofmApp

We also recommend you learn how to document horses hooves and body using this FREE self study online course, whether you trim your own, your clients horses, are an equine professional (in any capacity/field) or simply want to track and monitor progress of your horses hooves and the impact their hoof care has on their posture.

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Beccy Smith BSc ADAEP EBW

Diploma in Advanced Applied Equine Podiatry and now an Independent Integrative Equine Podiatrist, Consultant and Therapist. Certified Lazaris Nerve Release TM Practitioner

CEO and Founder of 100% Non-Profit Community Interest Company Holistic Reflections CIC

Holistic Reflections CIC – a 100% non-profit organisation promoting wellbeing and resilience in people, horses and the environment - for the benefit of all.


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