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No Hoof, No Horse

Posted on October 10, 2012 by Dodson & Horrell There have been 0 comments

Maintaining healthy hooves in the winter can be a challenge for horse-owners.  Farrier, Andrew Poynton explains “Having witnessed the wettest summer on record there have been much higher instances of foot infections due to the waterlogged underlying ground conditions; this does not bode well approaching the winter. Dry healthy hooves withstand bacterial ingress far better.”  As well as regular visits from your farrier, nutrition also plays an important role in keeping your horses hooves in ‘tip-top’ condition this winter.

A number of nutrients play a role in ensuring your horse’s hooves are strong and healthy.   But Nutritionist, Louise Jones, warns - ‘don’t leave it until you see signs of cracked or crumbling hooves before you consider a hoof supplement, remember it can take up to 9 months for the hoof to completely replace itself.’  So, what are the key nutrients you need to pay special attention to?

Biotin 

Biotin is a water soluble B-vitamin. It is necessary for the synthesis of keratin, a hard structural protein involved in hoof horn formation. Deficiencies in biotin are often associated with cracked and brittle hooves.

Like other B-vitamins a small quantity of biotin is naturally made in your horse’s hind-gut by bacteria.  However, the amount produced isn’t enough to meet your horse’s requirement and it isn’t even known how efficiently this bacterially produced biotin is absorbed from the gut.

If your horse’s hooves are generally healthy then they will not require high levels of biotin (1-3mg/ day for a 500kg horse).  This can be provided by feeding a well balanced concentrate feed.  However, horses prone to poor hoof condition or those suffering from hoof problems will need much higher levels (15-30mg/day) and therefore should receive a specific hoof supplement.

Zinc

Zinc is an important trace mineral involved in a wide range of activities in the body, including the structure of hoof keratin.  Indeed, studies have shown that horses with poor hooves have less zinc in their hoof horn compared to those with healthy hooves.

Analysis of forages (i.e. grass, hay or haylage) by the Dodson & Horrell laboratory has shown that they don’t contain anywhere near enough zinc to meet your horses daily requirements.  This is why horses on a forage only diet often develop poor quality hooves.

To ensure your horse gets enough dietary zinc you will need to feed a suitable concentrate feed or a specific hoof supplement.  However, before you make any changes to your feeding regime you should speak to a Nutritional Advisor as feeding too much zinc can interfere with the absorption of other minerals.

Amino Acids

The hoof wall is over 90% protein and so amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are essential for hoof health.  The horse cannot produce essential amino acids (e.g. methionine) and so they must be provided in the diet. Methionine is particularly important as it converted in the body into another sulphur containing amino acid called cystine, which is needed for strong hoof infrastructure.

It’s important to remember that not all protein sources are the same. Low quality protein sources such as hay will not contain high levels of essential the amino acids.  And a lack of essential amino acids in the diet will reduce hoof growth and quality. Higher quality protein sources include the concentrate feed and alfalfa based chaffs.

To meet protein and essential amino acid requirements all horses should receive a fully balanced concentrate feed. However, if your horse suffers from poor hoof condition higher levels may be required and this can be achieved by adding a specific hoof supplement to their daily ration.

Help for hooves

This winter don’t wait until you see the signs of hoof deterioration. By then it’s already too late - act now! So, should you add a hoof supplements such as Dodson & Horrell’s Hoof Support to your horse’s diet? Yes, says Nutritionists Louise Jones. She says ‘I have fed it to hundreds of horses over the years and the results are excellent, especially with horses prone to hoof problems.’

For more information on Hoof Support please click here.


This post was posted in Horses, News and was tagged with horse feed, Horse Supplements, hoof support, hoof problems

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