Feeding for Hoof Quality

Feeding for Hoof quality

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I pulled Freedom’s glue-on shoes a few weeks ago because access to my farrier will be limited until the shelter-at-home restrictions are banned.

So far, the weather has been good for tender hooves (rainy) and not so great for riding. What’s important now is to give Freedom the best chance to grow enough hoof to recover once he can have shoes again.

Hoof quality is the result of a number of factors:

Hoof quality
Freedom’s feet don’t stand up well to being barefoot. His hoof wall gets too damaged to hold a shoe.
  • Genetics – (let’s face it, Thoroughbreds are bred for speed, not for great feet)
  • Environment – conditions that are extremely dry will cause a hoof to shrink and harden; wet conditions will cause the hoof to weaken and spread
  • Movement – walking stimulates blood flow within the hooves, which brings in nutrients and increases metabolic activity in the foot
  • Farrier care – An unbalanced hoof can start to distort and create separation of the wall from the sole and allow for bacterial / fungal invasion.
  • Diet – proper nutrition and micronutrients can support better or faster hoof growth.

By managing the factors you can control, you can help your horse develop the best hooves they can, although you have to remember that any changes will take many months to take effect: a mature horse’s hooves grow only 0.25″ to 0.5″ per month.

Nutrition for Hoof Growth

A balanced diet is a good start for healthy hooves. But there are certain minerals and micronutrients that also have been shown to have benefit:

  • Zinc can be important to the keratinization of the hoof. A study done by Harrington, Walsh & White showed that insufficient hoof horn strength and had less zinc in the hoof horn and plasma than horses with no hoof horn damage.
  • Calcium and phosphorus, and the ratio of one to the other, also has an impact on hoof development. Calcium is needed for cell-to-cell attachment in the hoof horn and in the metabolism of the intercellular lipids. Calcium deficiency is often a result of diets high in bran and results in weak, crumbly hoof horn. Excess phosphorus can block the absorption of calcium from the small intestine, which ultimately can cause weak bones and affect cell-to-cell attachment.
  • Selenium is important as an antioxidant for the protection of cellular membranes. Too much selenium in the diet can lead to the substitution of sulfur in the keratin fibers with selenium, which causes poor structural integrity. Chronic selenium toxicity can result in hair loss, coronitis, and bleeding of the coronary band as well as sloughing of the hoof and even laminitis.
  • Sulfur: While sulfur can help hoof growth (think methionine) excess sulfur interferes with copper metabolism and can lead to weak connective tissue structure and poor hoof quality.
  • Vitamin A deficiency can cause fragile hoof walls.
  • Biotin is probably the most investigated and well-known vitamin related to hoof growth that increases tensile strength, hardness and growth rate. It is usually fed in conjunction with methionine and lysine.

To help Freedom along his journey to hoof regrowth, I’m going to add a hoof supplement to his rations. I’m looking at Farrier’s Formula Double Strength and Source Focus HF and Horse Tech’s Reithoof.

What has worked for you?

7 thoughts on “Feeding for Hoof Quality

  1. Have used Source in the past, great product! Right now I have my TB on Biotin Daily and CA trace plus, and Iā€™m seeing nice quality hoof growth and a metallic shine to their coat šŸ‘šŸ‘

  2. I use Tough as Nails and my farrier is impressed with the comeback my 22 yr old TB has experienced after thin/cracking walls. Unable to keep shoes both metal and glue on. His feet look great now and he is celebrating by running and bucking, I wish I had before and after pictures of his feet.

  3. My ex husbands Appy/TB cross, Smoke, had shelly, soft feet, prone to abscesses and would lose a shoe in a newyorkminute. I will never, ever own a white hoofed horse again. But I have to say that Farrier’s Formula did improve them to the point where he wasn’t losing a shoe every fifteen minutes.
    You’re right…TB blood doesn’t guarantee good feet.
    Raven’s hind feet were very bad. He was half Trakehner, half TB. It took a year of expert farrier work, (oh, do we miss Matt..he retired and moved to NM), Ricket’s formula (half iodine, half Turpentine) to kill the &^%$$&^&* white line, and Trifecta every day…but in the end, his feet were…if not perfect, at least 95% improved. If you hadn’t seen them you wouldn’t have believed how bad they were, and at the end, when we had to have him put down, it wasn’t for his feet. And they were solid.

    So…Trifecta first choice, Farrier’s formula second, IMHO.

  4. Liz…If you want to really provide optimum nutrition you need to know what your horse’s diet provides. Otherwise it’s a guessing game. The kitchen sink approach can backfire. It’s not just about meeting deficiencies. Minerals compete against each other, mineral ratios are just as important.
    Both of my horses are in their late twenties and PPID/insulin resistant. I have been balancing my horses’ diets for over 12 years. I have my hay & pellets tested/analyzed (at Equi-Analytical labs) for sugar & starch content, protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron (this is a bigee since horses can’t excrete iron), zinc, copper, manganese, etc. I then mineral balance their diets. My mineral mix contains amino acids & biotin as well as the major & trace minerals to balance what my horses’ diet doesn’t provide. Balancing my horses’ diets has made a huge difference in the quality of their hooves as well as their coats. And these are just the obvious signs. The above mentioned supplements are good but don’t necessarily provide optimum nutrition. For example Farrier’s Formula:
    Note that this formula supplies calcium & phosphorus but what if your hay is already high in calcium & phosphorus but low in magnesium. You have just made the ratio wider by adding these minerals. You might even start to see signs of magnesium deficiency because of this.
    It’s simple, find out what your diet provides first then add what your horse needs to meet requirements in the proper ratios. Just my two cents.

    1. You are completely correct. That is the best way to do it. The problem that I’ve always run into is my limited ability to store hay, especially now as I’m in a barn with quite limited hay storage. When you have to buy 70 bales at a time it gets to be more of a guessing game. I should talk to my hay supplier and see if he has rough numbers.

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