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When faced with a case of nutritional rehabilitation, should hoof health be a primary consideration or not?
As the nutritional state changes, such as when the horse gains weight, what changes can be expected in the hooves?
Without question, starvation negatively impacts hoof growth. Inadequate dietary energy, especially to the point of emaciation, hinders normal hoof development just as radically as it affects other body processes. While hoof growth may continue at a relatively constant rate through downturns in nutrition, the quality of hoof that develops may be severely diminished.
Hoof quality will likely improve as a horse moves from negative energy balance (too few calories in the diet to sustain body weight) to positive energy balance (calories exceeding those required for maintenance of body weight). A malnourished horse in negative energy balance will use whatever nutrition it consumes or can take away from its internal stores to fuel survival.
Therefore, meeting energy requirements with a well-balanced diet that contains high-quality forage and concentrates is the single most important factor when considering hoof growth and integrity of an emaciated horse. As the horse progresses in its recovery, alternative energy sources such as fermentable fiber and fat may be added to the diet. Though fat is a valuable feedstuff used to increase energy density of rations and to add shine to the coat, it does not seem to have a measurable effect on hoof growth or strength.
Aside from energy, a…