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 1 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.
Q: What nutritional concerns should I have if my horses develop hoof ring or hoof ridge concerns?
By Catherine Whitehouse, M.S.
Just as coat condition serves as an indication of the health status of horses, changes in hooves may provide clues to a horse’s historical well-being.
As the hoof wall is subject to any number of imperfections, it is commonplace for horses to develop shallow or deep cracks, chipped toes or flares. While these flaws are obvious, more subtle changes in the hoof wall, such as horizontal rings and ridges, tell more about a horse’s health than the regularity of hoof care.
Even though hoof rings and ridges sound synonymous, they are not. In fact, one is a normal feature of even the best-managed hooves while the other is a sign of pathology and potential toxicity.
Also called growth rings, hoof rings occur in healthy hooves. They are typically the result of season-to-season diet variations, especially in horses fed primarily forages. As the nutrient content of grass swells during the growing season, shifts in cellular production often cause distinct changes in the hoof wall, most notably slight color variations. The wall remains smooth with little or no palpable change in texture.
On the other hand, hoof ridges are usually indicative of a body-wide health concern, particularly one that causes fever, such as a bout with laminitis or nutrient toxicity. Like hoof rings, ridges are plainly visible, but one important difference is the formation of well-defined bumps or ledges on the wall. Horses with chronic laminitis may have repeated disturbances in hoof wall growth, causing these ridges to take on a V-like appearance toward the toe.
For most common dents and dings in the hoof wall, a source of biotin, coupled with other important nutrients, should be supplemented. However, this should be done only after the ration has been evaluated to be sure all essential nutrients are being fed. Hoof troubles often yield to optimal nutrition, such as biotin supplementation and consistent care.
Biotin supplementation is not an overnight cure, as dietary changes only affect new hoof growth, so some patience is required of horse owners. The upside is that many horses respond so well that new growth at the coronary band is visibly different from older unsupplemented wall.
Catherine Whitehouse is a 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 2 of the March 1, 2019 installment: Some hoof supplements advertise that they support healthy blood flow. Since some folks feel that hooves are dead tissue, why is this important?