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

Q: How important are trace minerals for improving hoof quality?

By Connie Larson, PhD

A: Most of our trace mineral research has been with cattle, but a couple of equine studies have revealed information on the influence of trace minerals on hoof health.

Zinc has the largest impact in terms of minerals on hoof quality. It has many different roles in cell replication and plays a major role in the process of cornification — turning protein into hoof horn.

While people always focus on zinc, copper is also important. Zinc helps in the process of building the keratin proteins, but we also need adequate copper to form these necessary proteins. These two minerals work together in a symbiotic fashion. Even if you have a lot of zinc, those bridges are not built if copper levels are inadequate.

Manganese is another important trace mineral for hoof health. It comes into play in the final phases of taking live cells and creating the hard outer hoof capsule. It also has a role in some of the lipids that are produced, which are an important part of that outer hoof wall layer that provides a healthy waterproof barrier.

Selenium is the other cornerstone for hoof health. If this trace mineral is lacking, or there is too much of it, the hoof will not be strong and healthy. Since it is needed in such small amounts, we sometimes see horses that get too much selenium.

Soils in many regions are deficient, so many feeds, mineral mixes and supplements have selenium added. If a horse is getting multiple supplements, there can be too much selenium, and excess selenium is toxic, as many farriers have witnessed.

If that happens, hoof growth is disrupted, as copper must be able to form the bridges between the keratin proteins. A lot of those proteins contain amino acids with sulfur, and if there is too much selenium, then the extra selenium replaces the sulfur. Now those bridges cannot form because the sulfur isn’t there. You’ll see hooves cracking, disrupted hoof growth, along with mane and tail hair breaking off. All of these important trace minerals must be in proper balance or something suffers.

Connie Larson is a retired equine nutritionist and researcher with Zinpro Corp. in Eden Prairie, Minn. She has been a frequent contributor to American Farriers Journal and has been a speaker at several of the International Hoof-Care Summits.

Click here to read part 1 of the Nov. 11, 2021, installment of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence: Could nutrition be involved with the joint concerns I’m having with my barrel horse? Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.