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Horse Hoof Anatomy - The Frog

March 15, 2018

Horse Hoof Anatomy - The Frog



When you look at the horse’s hoof in great detail, there’s a lot more going on than just the sole, wall, and what’s inside.  The frog has some critical functions in the hoof as well as the rest of the horse. 

The frog is the spongy triangular shaped tissue on the hoof bottom.  The apex, or pointy part, points to the front of the hoof.  The base is wider and extends out the back of the hoof.  The hoof’s center of gravity is at the approximate apex of the frog. 


The horse’s frog serves several functions:

  • Traction.  Obviously nice so your horse doesn’t slip and slide for no reason. 


  • Shock absorber.  The frog serves to protect the leg in two ways from concussion - from the ground pushing up and the leg bones of your horse pushing down. 


  • Blood pumper.  The lower leg of the horse has no muscle to assist blood flow in moving up the leg, so the frog acts as the horse’s second heart to push the blood back up the leg when the frog has pressure on it.  You can learn more about this mechanism here.



The frog is about 50% water, and also has the ability to sweat.  The horse’s frog will also shed on it’s own, so no trimming is needed.  It’s often best for most horses if the frog touches the ground. 


A horse’s frog will also callous and react according to the climate and terrain that the horse lives in, which is why minimal intervention is usually the standard procedure for caring for the frog.  It will also shed itself, with little need for assistance from us.


Thrush is a common threat to the frog.  This bacterial infection loves dark spaces without oxygen - like the bottom of your horse’s hoof.  You might smell and see the dark infection along the grooves that border the frog.  You can also see thrush in the main groove that divides the frog.  This takes some careful application of thrush killing medication.  More on thrush here!


Canker is another type of bacterial infection that can affect the frog, and can be much harder to  treat.  Canker can spread throughout the hoof, with it’s origin typically in the frog.  While thrush eats away tissue, canker will create more tissue.  Your Veterinarian and Farrier should be involved in a case of canker from the beginning, as well as a case of thrush that does not clear up in a few days. 



You might also be interested in the size of your horse’s frog.  When you look at the width as compared to the length, the width should be about 2/3 of the length.  If the width is shorter, it’s likely the hoof is contracted. 



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