By Kentucky Equine Research

If you have a client whose horse’s hooves are dry, shelly, chipped, or dull, here are some tips to provide owners to promote better hoof quality.

High-quality basic nutrition is the foundation of hoof health. Use a fully fortified feed that is designed for the class of horse you are feeding, and feed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and to desired body condition.

Hoof wall growth can be as much as 50% greater in horses that are in positive energy balance than in those on restricted diets with reduced body growth rate. A horse in negative energy balance will utilize protein in the diet or body to make up energy needs for maintenance or growth. This may slow hoof development because the hoof wall is about 93% protein on a dry matter basis. 

A regular schedule of hoof trimming for barefoot horses and resetting for shod horses should be followed. Farrier care every 4 to 6 weeks is sufficient for most horses. Letting horses go more than about 6 weeks without a trim is asking for trouble, as longer hooves tend to chip and split. Even if the hooves are not greatly overgrown, a light trim and smoothing can sometimes keep small cracks from progressing. While many idle and lightly used horses can go barefoot, shoeing will prevent excess wear on hooves that tend to chip and crack.

Remember, building strong hooves takes at least 6 to 12 months, and nothing can speed this process. Be patient and follow a sound nutrition program, and results will follow in time.

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