• horse;
  • hoof;
  • laminar junction;
  • structure;
  • Standardbred;
  • Thoroughbred


Reasons for performing study: Differences in hoof morphology have largely been underappreciated in the literature until recently, and it is these that hold the key to interpreting functional adaptation in the hoof.

Hypotheses: Primary laminar morphology correlates with hoof capsule shape; and breeds with different hoof shapes and loadings show different patterns of correlation.

Methods: Seventeen measurements of capsule shape and 3 of primary epidermal laminae (PEL) morphology (spacing, orientation and curvature) were made on right and left front hooves from 27 Standardbred and 25 Thoroughbred horses, and tested for breed differences. Three laminar variables (spacing, orientation and curvature) were measured on each hoof for samples of 25 PEL in 5 circumferential and 4 proximodistal locations. Pairwise correlations of capsular and laminar measurements were compared within breeds. Significant correlations were mapped onto the 20 sampling sites.

Results: Capsule shape differed significantly between breeds in 7 measurements and in a multivariate test. Between breeds, PEL differed in orientation and spacing primarily at the medial quarters and heels, and in curvature at both quarters (P<0.05). Significant correlations between several pairs of capsule and laminar variables were found at sample locations that differed markedly between breeds.

Conclusions: Laminar morphology, hoof capsule shape and correlations between them differ between Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds. These results support the concept that remodelling of PEL is, at least in part, stimulated and directed by varying stress or strain levels in the laminar junction.

Potential relevance: Understanding the biological responses of hoof tissues to stress should add to the ability to prevent lameness involving the hoof and maintain its health.