Nutrition and supplementation have an important role to play in the health of the equine hoof. Minerals such as zinc, copper and manganese are critical to skin and hoof integrity, says Dr. Dean Meyer, equine veterinarian and creator of Doctor’s Choice Supplements, based in Sauk City, Wis. Meyer presented at the 2019 Midwest Equine Podiatry Conference in Arlington, Wis. this fall. The conference was sponsored by Lodi Veterinary Care and Country View Equine Clinic.

“So often when looking at a horse and working with a foot, it is overlooked how important nutrition is to the keep a healthy horse and a healthy foot,” Meyer says.

Minerals are an important part of nutrition, playing a significant role in every system an animal has, from immunity to reproduction. Balancing those minerals, however, is key to any nutrition plan, Meyer said. Improper supplementation can lead to malnutrition; too little supplementation can lead to nutritional deficiencies that may result in poor performance and sickness; too much supplementation can be a waste of resources and potentially toxic.

Minerals and Hoof Quality

Dean Meyer Doctors Supplements
Dr. Dean Meyer, founder of Doctor's Choice Supplements

A common misconception Meyer has encountered in his many year of practice relates to biotin supplementation for improved foot quality.

“I’ve had clients who said, ‘I’ve had my horse on biotin for years and I am just not getting a very good quality foot,’” Meyer says. “That’s because the minerals that are most important to hoof integrity are zinc, manganese and copper — you can’t just add biotin to get a healthy foot.”

If the hoof were a brick wall, Meyer says, the bricks would be the zinc, manganese and copper, while biotin would be the mortar in between. All are needed to create the whole picture of the hoof. Zinc in particular plays a vital role in keratinization and epithelial health. Meyer noted that some studies have shown adding zinc to a zinc deficient diet can improve sole depth when it’s incorporated as part of comprehensive horse health management plan.