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The frog is one of the most important anatomical structures of the horse, writes Steve Stanley, who is a regular contributor to Hoof Beats and American Farriers Journal. A frog helps maintain a fully functioning hoof that is vital to a fully functioning horse.
Traction, support, dissipation of concussion forces and augmented blood flow are all critical functions of the frog. The shape of the frog has a lot to do with the traction effect it has. This creates a much more natural purchase on the track surface than a horseshoe does and is one of the reasons for the enhanced (sometimes) performance results from barefoot racing.
The concussion-reducing effect is when the frog engages the ground, compressing the sensitive frog and then, in turn, the digital cushion, which is above the sensitive frog proximally. The digital cushion then broadens into the lateral cartilages of the hoof, expanding the entire structure.
A vital key to this reduction of force going up the limb from impact is engagement of the frog and ground. Anything that compromises the frog/ground engagement reduces the cushioning effect from the hoof capsule. Such compromise could occur in many ways. A parameter-fit horseshoe that has no frog support will lessen the effectiveness of the frog by elevating the hoof farther from the ground surface. Diseases such as thrush and canker will compromise the frog.
Another detriment to frog function is a sharp hoof knife. The inclination to pretty…