Calcium is required in the diets of all horses for optimal health and well-being. Considered a macromineral, it is needed in a relatively large amount, especially when compared to trace minerals.
Though calcium is aligned most often with musculoskeletal strength and soundness, as well as nerve conductivity, its importance in hoof health is unquestionable. However, a severe calcium deficiency in the diet is likely to have deleterious effects on other body systems before a significant collapse in hoof health occurs.
The provision of a well-balanced diet will ensure that calcium levels are appropriate for the type of horse being fed. A qualified equine nutritionist can determine if a horse is being offered a suitable diet for its age and use. Most horses given a balanced diet will not have hoof problems due to poor nutrition. This is particularly true of young horses and those not engaged in demanding work.
In the hoof, calcium is present in minuscule amounts, approximately 300 to 350 mg/kg of hoof wall. One of calcium’s primary roles is assisting in the creation of sulfur cross-links between hoof proteins that allow for cohesion among cells. The stronger the cohesion, the more healthy and impenetrable is the hoof.
The amount of calcium in the hoof is dependent on numerous factors, according to a study conducted in Virginia (Ley et al., 1998). In one trial, 30 mature Thoroughbred mares were fed one of three diets, with 10 mares relegated to each diet. The three diets…