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: How does feeding based on quantity vs. quality relate to good nutrition and cost?
By Nikki Wahl-Seto
A: Horse owners often are crunched for money and want to buy the cheaper, sometimes lower-quality feed. But making sure the feed offers a high-quality source of protein, minerals and vitamins may prevent problems down the road.
Owners have to find high-quality nutrient sources to properly nourish their horses. Good-quality grass hay can meet most of the adult horse’s basic nutritional needs of 10%-12% crude protein in their diets. However, a fortified grain concentrate can be used to supplement the forage, increasing its energy, protein, vitamin and mineral content.
When owners switch to a better-quality feed with higher-quality protein, farriers are usually the first to notice, as they see changes in the hoof at every footcare visit. The ridges in the feet vary with every major nutritional change, even with a different location or grazing in a different place. Sometimes there’s not been a big enough change to produce a ridge on the hoof, but a farrier can still tell when there is more quality growth.
Feed quantity is also important, as the horse world is all too familiar with the problems with overweight horses struggling with laminitis.
Owners are often confused about proper serving sizes, which can create an adverse effect on the horse’s vitamin and mineral levels. When the owner of an overweight, regularly exercised horse decreases the amount of feed, the horse may not receive the proper amount of protein and minerals.
On the other hand, an owner with a heavily worked horse may increase the amount of feed and give the horse extra calories to meet the mineral and vitamin requirements, leading to unneeded weight and risking mineral toxicity.
In these cases, a ration balancer is often recommended. Maybe they don’t need that many pounds to meet their calorie requirements, but they may need extra feed to meet their nutrient requirements.
A farrier can’t determine how much feed an owner should be giving their horse, as it depends on the exercise level and maintenance. Owners must figure this out themselves, because so much of that depends on how hard the horse is worked. However, if a farrier suspects a nutrition-related foot or general issue, he or she has a responsibility to inform the owner and advise them to contact a nutritionist or veterinarian.
Nikki Wahl-Seto is a nutritionist and equine representative for Standard Process, a Palmyra, Wis., food supplement company.
Click here to read part 2 of the Jan. 13, 2022, installment of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence: Can poor nutrition lead to white line disease concerns? Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.