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: Are domesticated horses fed better than wild horses that roam the open range?
By Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD
A: Feral horses have a major advantage over domesticated horses when it comes to their diet. They typically range over a large area of land, which is likely to represent several different soil types and many types of vegetation.
When the horse consumes a variety of plants growing in a variety of different soils, it gets a generous supply of essential fatty acids and B vitamins. It is also far more likely to receive the amino acids and minerals it needs since each plant’s profile will be different.
Stabled horses often eat the same meals and types of hay every day of their lives. Even horses fortunate enough to be extensively pastured consume much less plant variety than a feral horse. The mineral profiles, especially the trace minerals iron, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium, are likely to be very similar in all the plants grown on the same soil.
Many commercially available hoof supplements do a far better job of coming close to correctly balancing common equine diets than do multi-ingredient vitamin and mineral supplements. They target the common deficiencies better, without adding more minerals that the horses doesn’t need and that will actually make any deficiencies worse.
The reason nutritional deficiencies often show up in the hoof is that it’s a very metabolically active tissue and the horn is being worn away and must be replaced constantly. If the horse is lacking one or more of the nutrients it needs, hoof quality will suffer. All key nutrients must be present in the correct amounts.
If you suspect you may be dealing with hoof problems with a nutritional component, have your hay or pasture analyzed. Then work with an equine nutritionist to provide only the nutrients your horse truly needs to have a balanced diet. Remember that excesses are as harmful as deficiencies since they may crowd out the nutrients that are present in low concentrations.
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, a staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, has been an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years. The owner of Equine Nutritional Solutions in Robesonia, Pa., she is a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushing’s and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the group’s ultimate goal.
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Click here to read part 1 of the March 1, 2020 installment of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence: How important is total energy intake in maintaining quality hooves?