Hoof Nutrition Intelligence 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: Could nutrition be part of the concerns I’m having with my foot-sore horse?

By Laura Petroski-Rose, B.V.M.S.

Most horse owners have heard the phrase “tender-footed,” meaning foot soreness. But the big question is what causes the problem and what can be done to avoid it?

Foot soreness is characterized by sensitivity when pressure is applied to the foot. Horses with foot soreness can appear to be more painful when walking on hard surfaces, like asphalt or packed clay, than when walking on more forgiving terrain, such as grass or arena footing.

Foot soreness differs from an abscess, which is a compromise in the hoof structure due to bacterial infiltration. With an abscess, as with any infection, the body builds an immune response to the bacteria, resulting in the formation of pus. Because the pus can’t escape, pressure from this fluid-filled space causes pain and results in lameness. But with foot soreness, there is no bacterial component.

The causes of soreness can be divided into several broad categories including nutrition, environmental, farriery and genetics.

Nutrition. Horses should consume a well-balanced diet, which focuses not only on energy, but also fulfills the daily requirements for protein, vitamins and minerals. For many horses with poor-quality hooves, biotin supplementation provides the nutritional support necessary to support hoof growth, including the development of a strong hoof wall.

Research focusing on biotin supplementation has revealed that feeding 20 mg of biotin daily produces optimal results for horses that respond to it. Giving more than 20 mg per day has yielded no additional benefits. 

Environment. Weather-related changes, especially periods of rain followed by periods of drought or vice versa, frequently bring about foot problems. Wet-to-dry cycles not only affect the texture of the ground but can also make hooves too brittle or soft, causing them to be more easily damaged.

Continuous stomping to shoo away insects can be traumatic to hooves and can cause internal damage, not to mention increased wear and an increased incidence of hoof cracks.

Farriery. Improper trimming and shoeing can be the source of foot pain. Shoes are used to compensate for conformational issues, to protect the hoof from wear and tear, and to enhance soundness and performance. Farriers should identify a propensity for thin soles so that pads can be used to provide sole support and protection from environmental factors or trauma.

Although poor farrier work could contribute to lameness, the lack of appropriate hoof care is also a cause of lameness. Conformational issues, such as an unbalanced hoof, may develop from a lack of proper or timely trimming and might lead to unsoundness. A long toe can result in a low heel, which predisposes that heel and toe, and other soft tissue structures, to damage.

Genetics. Some horses are naturally born with poor conformation and may be predisposed to developing certain issues like soft or thin soles. Horses with flat feet tend to damage their soles more readily, since the soles have more contact with the ground surface. Horses with long pasterns tend to develop long toes and low heels.

Laura Petroski-Rose is a veterinarian with Kentucky Equine Research in Versailles, Ky.

Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine). 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 Jan. 15, 2019 installment: What do farriers see as the most important feeding challenges among horse owners?

Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.