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Understanding Foot Exfoliation
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Understanding Foot Exfoliation

Nature has a way of replenishing itself after it has taken a beating with passing time. Trees shed their leaves and animals crawl out of their skins anew in order to stay healthy and alive. Even human beings lose the old and withered parts of their skin and new, fresh and healthy cells take the place.

This process is generally known as exfoliation, both in animals and plants. In plants, exfoliation occurs with the arrival of new leaves or when a tree sheds its bark and produces a new one. In animals and humans, it means the replacement of old skin cells with new ones especially in parts which are used more vigorously like the foot. Let’s first try and get an understanding of how exfoliation works.

Exfoliation – Natural and Induced:

Exfoliation, in humans, takes place when the skin to be renewed undergoes ‘controlled damage’. This is done by using certain cosmetic chemicals to damage the dead skin cells enough so that the skin can naturally induce the growth of new ones. The skin produces larger numbers of collagen and elastin cells which encourages growth of new cells.

In animals and plants, exfoliation takes place naturally. Many animals like cats, dogs, and especially reptiles shed their coats and skins. The best example of natural exfoliation is the serpent, which crawls away from the skin it has shed on a regular basis.

Other than reptiles though, exfoliation isn’t always obvious in many bigger mammals. The horse is one example where the process may seem somewhat troubling to horse owners without the understanding of exfoliation in the horse’s foot.

Exfoliation in Horses:

It may not always be noticeable when an animal sheds small patches of skin, but it certainly would be worrisome when someone sees part of their horse’s foot falling off.

Horses undergo exfoliation in their feet. The frog is a part of the underside of a horse’s foot which takes about 25% of the area, and is softer than the hoof. This part of the foot resembles the skin in terms of cell structure which is why it becomes part of the same process through which the skin is renewed. 

The Process:

The epidermis is the outer layer of skin which contains cells that slowly die with the passage of time. These cells in a horse’s frog are encased in Keratin, which is like a protective covering, and move out away from the foot. That is how a horse slowly loses the dead cells and newer ones take their place over time.

This whole process takes place discreetly and doesn’t really get noticed. In some cases though, due to certain environmental aspects, the whole frog or a large patch of it would fall off at once. That is when horse owners without proper understanding of foot exfoliation get concerned.

Exfoliation is a natural process that takes place to keep organisms healthy and active. Horse owners should know about the phenomenon and not get worried, and if they see the frog of their horse’s foot trying to come off, they should try and help the process take place rather than be concerned about their steed’s health.

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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  1. SandyJudy
    You can carry that analogy further because the sole of the horse's foot is also skin of the surface of the finger while the frog is like the cuticle on either side of the fingernail. As the bars are part of the fingernail like the wall, they need to be trimmed just like your fingernails. The main difference is that if they are not worn off or trimmed, they will actually get pushed upwards or accumulate on the underside of the foot like a lump of concrete. It may cause pinching of the softer structures like the sensitive corium, of the inside of the foot. Bars can be sharp and cause the horse to weight his toe instead of the whole bottom surface of the foot, making the heels and bars grow even faster, while causing the coffin bone to pull on the wall's attachment. It would be like you walking on your toe nail instead of your toe.

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