Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.
Below you will find Part 2 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.
Q: How do I know what I need when it comes to selecting a hoof supplement?
By Kathleen Crandell, PhD
There are many products on the market designed to be hoof supplements that contain many of the nutrients believed to improve hoof quality. There is such a wide array of products, however, that it can be confusing for horse owners to know what’s best for their horses.
When a horse has poor-quality hooves, there are actually two different types of common defects.
1. One is loss of structure in horn on the outer surface of the hoof wall. The hoof starts to look dull, scruffy, flaky, brittle, cracked, etc., and the hoof doesn’t hold together as well as it should.
This defect responds to biotin supplementation. Biotin is one of the important B vitamins and is essential in cell proliferation, affecting new hoof growth. A horse owner might become frustrated because he or she tried biotin and it didn’t seem to do anything for the horse. Yet, biotin supplementation has been found to improve hoof integrity, structure and hardness in many studies with horses that have poor-quality hooves.
In these studies, and in hoof supplements, we are giving biotin in therapeutic amounts (15 to 20 mg per day), which is well above the horse’s normal requirement. Why it works in such high quantities may have to do with those specific horses having trouble absorbing the biotin that is normally in the diet or produced by the microbes in the hindgut.
If the basic nutrient needs are being met by forage and a vitamin and mineral supplement and/or ration balancer, yet unsatisfactory hoof quality or an inadequate growth rate persists, a biotin-based supplement is recommended. There are also differences in how individual horses are affected.
2. The other kind of defect/deficiency is within the hoof wall, on the inside — where inner layers of the hoof wall attach to outer layers — in the interlocking laminae. That type of deficiency responds to calcium and protein supplementation along with supplemental biotin.
The defect that corresponds to protein and calcium concerns is best helped with a good diet with adequate protein and calcium — fed in balance with phosphorus.
You want the ratio to be something like 1½ to 2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus (and no higher than 5 to 1) for an adult horse. It should be no higher than 3 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus for a young, growing horse.
Kathleen Crandell, PhD, is an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research in Versailles, Ky.
Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine).
Like many significant achievements, Absorbine® grew out of humble beginnings—and through the tenacity of someone willing to question the status quo. In this case, it was a young woman in late 19th-century Massachusetts: Mary Ida Young. Her husband, Wilbur Fenelon Young, was an enterprising piano deliveryman who relied on the couple’s team of horses to make deliveries throughout the Northeast. Inspired by Mary Ida and Wilbur’s vision, Absorbine® has continued to add innovative products throughout the years — products used every day by horse owners around the world. Which is why, since 1892, we’ve been The Horse World’s Most Trusted Name®.
Click here to read Part 1 of the Sept. 1, 2018 installment: Is it possible to feed too much of one or more supplements to my horses?