How Nutrition Impacts Hoof Quality
Is there something wrong with your horse's hooves? Ever wondered if a decifiency regarding nutrition impacts hoof quality? We have the answers!
From tell-tale signs your horse may be suffering a deficiency to supplementing for optimal hoof health, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about keeping on top of hoof condition this summer!
Nutritional Deficiencies Impacting Hoof Health
Hoof care is not only about looking after the external features with topical care essentials, it is also about looking after the hoof from the inside through the role of nutrition. Malnourishment can negatively impact hoof health and growth. Not meeting the dietary or energy requirement of our horse’s can hinder hoof health and growth, as well as the health of other structures and bodily functions. With extreme malnourishment, there may be very little hoof growth, as the body favours using energy to support vital functions instead. However, any hoof that does grow will be of poor quality.
Providing the appropriate nutrients, but remaining in a calorie deficit may hinder hoof health. Horses in a negative energy balance (an energy intake under the intake required to maintain body weight) will use whatever nutrition they consume to fuel their survival. Therefore, before adding supplements to support hoof growth and health, ensuring your horse is consuming enough energy to support their daily energy expenditure is crucial. Remember, it’s not just exercise that horses need energy for. Energy is used all the time, from breathing to eating!
Nutrition For Healthy Hooves
Once you have addressed any energy deficiencies in your horse’s diet and re-assessed hoof condition, looking further into diet additions to support hoof growth may be vital toward creating or maintaining the health of the hoof wall. Make sure to rule out and consider if your horse has recently suffered any hoof ailments too, as these can hinder overall health of the hoof. By maintaining health of the hoof wall, you can reduce the likelihood of your horse developing or the reoccurrence of hoof-related ailments.
High quality proteins have been suggested as an essential to hoof growth. Studies into certain amino acid (the building blocks of protein) in the hooves have found a correlation between the content of the amino acid, cystine, and the hardness of normal hooves. Additionally, normal hooves in comparison to poor-quality hooves have been found to have higher levels of amino acids, threonine, phenylalanine, and proline. These amino acids are considered to be ‘essential’, as they cannot be created in by the body and must be supplied through the diet. However, methionine and lysine are the two most important amino acids that tend to be limiting, as they are the most common amino acid deficiency in horse’s diets. Therefore, the need for high quality protein in the diet is crucial in the fight for healthy hooves and without these building blocks, hoof growth is restricted and integrity is likely to be poor. When you look for a hoof supplement, be aware that it should contain methionine in its formulation.
Additionally, hoof health should be supported by a balance of vitamins and minerals. Good quality grazing or forage, and even modern concentrate feeds, offer the daily requirements of vitamins and minerals for your horses, so there is usually no need to worry. Adding extra vitamins and mineral to feed with an already complete profile will just go to waste, as the body can only absorb certain amounts.
Although, if you are not providing your horse with a complete feed, such as certain horse and pony nuts or balancers, and your grazing or forage is poor, consideration of zinc and copper deficiencies may be accountable for poor hoof condition. Studies have shown that horse’s with poor-quality hooves had lower blood and hoof levels of zinc than those with normal hooves. Meanwhile, other studies have suggested that horses consuming diets low in zinc and copper are more suspectable to white-line disease than horses supplemented with the minerals.
Biotin may also support hoof growth, with various studies suggesting supplementing approximately 20mg per day can significantly improve hoof condition. Improving the condition of the hoof through new growth, it may take serval weeks to notice any difference in the quality of your horse’s hooves though. Six to eight weeks is the average for noticeable differences in hoof quality to manifest with biotin supplementation.