What is the Digital Cushion?
The digital cushion is one of the primary shock absorbers of the foot, hence the “Cushion” part of the name. As for the “Digital” part, the Pedal Bone is also called the Third Digit, so the name makes sense.
The digital cushion fills a huge amount of the horse’s foot and is mainly found in the back of the foot.
Shock absorbing, in short, occurs as the frog makes ground contact, pushing up into the Digital Cushion which expands and pushes the Lateral Cartilages to the sides. There are other factors, like blood filling the foot too, but we will concentrate on the Digital Cushion here.
The digital cushion also fills the Heel Bulbs.
Let’s take a look at a digital cushion from a Sagittal cut.
So, they’re pressing down while the frog is pushing up.
It is therefore essential that the Digital Cushion should be well developed. When the Digital Cushion isn’t well developed, it is soft and consist of fatty material. When the Digital Cushion is well developed, it is hard and consist of Fibro-Cartilage.
Here is a comparative picture of what I am explaining.
The Digital Cushion is where one sees a big difference between a horse that gets enough exercise on a heel strike (more about this in the Trimming Section) and one that does not.
Here is a video that I took while I was doing dissections. The soft Digital Cushion in the video is even softer than in the picture. I think this will give you a better idea of just exactly what the consistency of the Digital Cushion can be like. The video also relates to the condition of the Lateral Cartilages, but I’ll treat them on a separate page.
Watch the Digital Cushion Comparison. Please add Comment and Like It!
Underneath are two cadavers I cut to compare their Digital Cushions. As you can see the one on the left is far inferior to the one on the right. What is also apparent is that the angle of the pedal bone in the left cadaver is more “flat” than the one on the right, which is more upright. Please don’t think this is the way the Pedal Bone sits in the Hoof Capsule. You have to have the picture of the complete Pedal Bone in your mind to see how ground parrallel it really is.
The view of the Pedal Bone in a Sagittal cut is a bit deceiving, but you’ll get it…if you look at this stuff long enough!
Notice that the toe on the left foot is more horizontal (opposite to what a Laminitic foot would be and therefore more of a Negative Palmar Angle) and the one on the right foot is more vertical. Quite possibly the reason for the difference in Digital Cushion shape, form and quantity.
Soon we will explore the Digital Cushion more, but for now, know that it is essential that your horse has a Heel Strike, get as much Exercise as possible and be Barefoot to allow the Digital Cushion to become the shock absorber that it is meant to be.
For Interest Sake:
Check out the size of the Digital Cushion in this Elephant foot!