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: I’m working with a mare that previously suffered from malnutrition with a previous owner. How will improved nutrition affect her hoof quality?

By Joe D. Pagan

A: Without question, starvation negatively impacts hoof growth. Inadequate dietary energy, especially to the point of emaciation, hinders normal hoof development just as radically as it affects other body processes. While hoof growth may often continue at a rate through downturns in nutrition, the quality of hoof that develops will likely be diminished.

Hoof quality will likely improve as a horse moves from negative energy balance (too few calories in the diet to sustain body weight) to positive energy balance (calories exceeding those required for maintenance of body weight). A malnourished horse in negative energy balance will use whatever nutrition it consumes or can take away from its intended stores to fuel survival.

Therefore, meeting energy requirements with a well-balanced diet that contains high-quality forage and concentrates is the single most important factor when considering hoof growth and the integrity of an emaciated horse.

As the quality of nutrition increases with these horses, so will hoof quality. As new hoof growth appears, well-defined ridges that are known as growth rings may appear on the hoof wall. These rings usually reflect a significant change in the health or well-being of the horse and the formation of high-quality hoof tissue above the growth rings is an encouraging sign.

While most well-fed horses grow sound hooves, hooves can be compromised due to inadequate nutrition. With the regular care of a farrier, a diet that meets an animal’s nutritional requirements will usually remedy any hoof problems caused by malnutrition.

Joe Pagan is the president and founder of Kentucky Equine Research, an international equine nutrition research and consultation company located in Versailles, Ky. This item is taken from an article he authored on “How the Hoof Reacts to Malnutrition” that appeared in American Farriers Journal.

Click here to read part 2 of the Oct. 21, 2021, installment of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence: I have a 21-year-old Appaloosa mare who recently came down with a case of grass founder. I’m giving her 1-ounce of bute along with one-half cup of grain. Is this amount enough to relieve any pain? What do you recommend? She is temporarily stall bound and being fed two flakes of grass hay per day along with water. Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.