Guide Horse Hoof Health: Building a Strong Foundation

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At first, the client had 2 horses. Now she has After backing her shoeing rig up to the barn door, Bean notes that this barn belongs to Wendy Trocano, one of her longest continuous clients. Right now, the barn houses 33 horses and Bean shoes all of them. Not only that, but Bean leaves itemized shoeing bills with Trocano, who adds them to the boarding bills of her tenants, and pays Bean in one check, eliminating a lot of potential bookkeeping headaches for the farrier.

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Premium content is for our Digital-only and Premium subscribers. A Print-only subscription doesn't qualify. Pat Tearney Pat Tearney is a long-term newspaper and magazine veteran writer and editor. Before retiring, he served for a number of years on the American Farriers Journal staff and continues to share his writing talents with our readers. Furthermore, research has suggested that increased homocysteine another amino acid produced from methionine can negatively affect endothelial cell cells that line blood vessels function and should be avoided by horses prone to laminitis.

Therefore, for hoof health perhaps only cysteine should be supplemented directly. Both methionine and cysteine are found in high protein feeds such as alfalfa, soybean meal, flaxseed meal and wheat bran.

How Nutrition Can Make a Difference in Equine Hoof Health

Biotin: Another important nutrient for hoof growth is the B vitamin, biotin. Biotin functions as a coenzyme for many metabolic reactions, particularly those associated with amino acid metabolism and cell division. In other species, and as would be expected in the horse, biotin deficiency results in dermatitis and impaired hoof quality. Because biotin is water-soluble it has a low risk of toxicity, and is, therefore, a popular component of hoof supplements.

It should be noted that biotin appears to be more effective in horses with poor hooves as a corrective effect, rather than an enhancement of already healthy hooves. Biotin can be found in many common equine feeds. Alfalfa is known to have particularly high levels of biotin 0. Zinc and Copper: Zinc is a micro-mineral that functions as a cofactor of numerous enzymes, and is associated with hoof health. Zinc concentrations in hooves and blood have been reported to be higher in horses with good feet, compared to those with poor hoof horn quality.

Horses with white line disease were associated with diets low in zinc and copper. Because copper and zinc compete for similar transport mechanisms, it is recommended to feed zinc to copper ratios of about four parts zinc for every one part copper. Many hoof supplements contain zinc and copper as well as magnesium. One study reported that organic minerals i. However, another study found no improvements in hoof hardness, growth or tensile strength in weanlings fed organic minerals.

Calcium: This mineral plays a major role in bone strength, and is also responsible for supporting the sulfur cross-links within keratin. The addition of alfalfa rich in calcium and protein, as well as many other nutrients improved the hoof structure in horses with brittle feet in various studies. Increased consumption of non-structural carbohydrates NSC; such as starches from grains and sugars in lush pasture is associated with insulin resistance and laminitis.


The direct effect of excessive NSC on hoof growth rate or strength has not been reported, but warrants investigation. A solid diet built from good quality forages is of the utmost importance to overall horse health. Based on a hay analysis, nutrients that may be missing in the diet, such as key amino acids, calories, minerals or vitamins can be supplemented in the form of a commercial feed or from specific nutritional supplements.

4 quick steps for strong and healthy hooves

The addition of biotin directly is relatively non-toxic and can be effective to help improve poor hoof quality and may be an easy fix for minor problems assuming the rest of the diet is adequate. Some hoof supplements contain the additive selenium, but no benefits have been demonstrated in feeding selenium above required amounts. In fact, excess selenium may decrease the quality of hoof growth, as selenium can replace sulfur within the keratin molecules, compromising their structure and integrity. Symptoms of alkali disease resulting from selenium toxicity include hoof cracks, hoof rings and separation of the hoof walls.

Mixing several different supplements together, or mixing them with commercial feeds runs the risk of doubling or tripling some nutrients and can pose toxicity issues. Cofactor: A substance, such as a metallic ion or coenzyme, that must be associated with an enzyme for the enzyme to function. Cornification: The process by which squamous epithelial cells in vertebrate animals develop into tough protective layers or structures such as hair, hooves and the outer layer of skin; the final stage of keratinization.

Essential amino acids: Those amino acids the body cannot build that are required to be provided in the diet, such as methionine and cysteine. Keratin: 1. Any of a class of filamentous proteins that are abundant in the cytoskeleton of vertebrate epithelial cells and are the main constituents of the outer layer of skin and tough epidermal structures such as hair, nails, hooves, feathers, and claws; 2.

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Material composed principally of keratin proteins. Competition horses, especially those at the highest levels of the sport, have specific nutrient need. When the temperatures drop and the work load lightens, you will need to make adjustments to your hor. Equine nutritionist, Shannon Pratt-Phillips, PhD, explains that not all hay is created equal and off.

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