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To understand why keratin is important in hoof health, it is necessary to learn what it is and how it contributes to hoof function. This is described in detail in the accompanying box.
With the knowledge of what keratin is and how it contributes to hoof function as a structural component of the hoof capsule in providing both strength and flexibility, it becomes quite evident as to why it is important for hoof health.
The equine foot has an amazing architectural design that combines both form and function to support movement of the horse.
The equine foot also must maintain the ability to adapt to different type surfaces and environmental conditions. Due to wear on the outer tissues of the hoof capsule, there is a continuous process of new cells replicating and undergoing the differentiation process.
A proper nutrient supply to these keratin-forming cells is critical for hoof tissue quality and function. If nutrition is compromised, either due to a nutrient deficiency or an imbalance caused by overfeeding one or more nutrients, there is the potential for inferior tissue to be produced in the hoof. Tissue produced under these circumstances can increase hoof problems as well as lead to possible lameness. Hoof problems associated with this may include thin walls, thin soles, evidence of cracking or flaking of the hoof wall and disrupted growth patterns in the hoof capsule.
Dr. Connie Larson is a research nutritionist specializing…