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: Why is keratin so important to hoof health?
By Connie Larson, PhD
A: With the knowledge of what keratin is and how it contributes to hoof function as a structural component of the hoof capsule in providing both strength and flexibility, it becomes quite evident as to why it is important for hoof health.
The equine foot has as an amazing architectural design that combines both form and function in order to support movement of the horse. The equine foot must also maintain the ability to adapt to different types of surfaces and environmental conditions. Due to wear on the outer tissues of the hoof capsule, there is a continuous process of new cells replicating and undergoing the differentiation process.
A proper nutrient supply to these keratin-forming cells is critical for hoof tissue quality and function. If nutrition is compromised, either due to a nutrient deficiency or an imbalance caused by overfeeding one or more nutrients, there is the potential for inferior tissue to be produced in the hoof. Tissue produced under these circumstances can increase hoof problems as well as lead to possible lameness.
Hoof problems associated with this situation may include thin walls, thin soles, evidence of cracking or flaking of the hoof wall and disrupted growth patterns in the hoof capsule.
Connie Larson is an equine nutritionist and researcher with Zinpro Corp. in Eden Prairie, Minn. She has been a frequent contributor to American Farriers Journal and a speaker at the International Hoof-Care Summit.
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