• finite-element analysis;
  • quantitative morphology;
  • horse;
  • hoof;
  • laminar junction;
  • displacement;
  • stress;
  • biomechanics


The horse's hoof is structurally modified for its mechanical functions, but studying the functional design of internal structures is hampered by the external keratinous capsule. Finite-element analysis offers one method for evaluating mechanical function of components within the capsule, such as the laminar junction. This is the epidermodermal connection that binds the hoof wall strongly to the distal phalanx. Primary epidermal laminae (PEL), projecting inward from the wall, vary in morphology and are remodeled despite being keratinous. The aim of this study is to investigate the suggestion that remodeling of PEL is influenced by mechanical stress. Circumferential and proximodistal stress distribution and relative displacement in the laminar junction are assessed by finite-element analysis (FEA) of nine hoof models. Spacing, orientation, and curvature of PEL are assessed from sections through 47 other hooves and compared with the stress and displacement data. Significant correlations are found between laminar spacing and seven displacement and stress variables, supporting the link between stresses and remodeling. Differences in external hoof shape cause regional variation in stress magnitudes around the laminar junction. This finding is in accord with previous observations that laminar morphology is individually regionally variable. This work provides the first concrete link between mechanical behavior and laminar morphology. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.