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 1 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.

Q: What’s the nutritional link between amino acids and various types of protein?

By Connie Larson, PhD

A: Amino acids are the “building blocks” or individual components of protein. Protein digestion yields amino acids that can be delivered via blood circulation to provide for protein synthesis in the newly formed cells that will become the hoof wall, sole and frog. These cells are transformed into the highly cornified cells that are found in the exterior portions of the hoof.

The first step in this process involves the synthesis of keratin proteins. These keratin proteins in the hoof contribute to both the strength and flexibility required for hoof function.

The hoof must be strong enough to bear the weight of the horse and also offer elasticity to interact with various surfaces. Keratin proteins require sulfur-containing amino acids, such as methionine and cysteine. Sulfur is a key component required for the formation of bridges that occur between the proteins to form a mesh-like structure in the hoof. The structure of these proteins is a major factor contributing to the physical capabilities of the hoof.

Connie Larson is an equine nutritionist and researcher with Zinpro Corp. in Eden Prairie, Minn. A frequent contributor to American Farriers Journal and a speaker at the International Hoof-Care Summit, this item is condensed from an article she wrote titled, “Balanced Rations are Essential for More Hoof Growth” that appeared in the May/June 2011 issue of American Farriers Journal.

Click here to read part 2 of the July 22, 2021, installment of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence: How will starving a horse negatively affect hoof growth? Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.