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: Under extremely cold winter conditions, do we have to do anything special to keep our horses’ hooves healthy?
By Patrick Ards
A: Giving your clients advice about winter feeding can be a good idea. Fiber in a horse’s diet is particularly important during the colder weather because of the heat created during digestion. A horse kept in a stall, corral or otherwise limited area should be provided with enough good quality hay daily to equal approximately 2% of its body weight — that’s about half of a square bale per day, per horse.
In very cold environments, it is also a good idea to continually provide grass hay that is high in fibrous content so horses can eat as much as they require.
As most horses are inactive during the winter, grain is not usually necessary. But if grain is fed, a ration containing some corn is preferred, as its energy content is far greater than that from feeding oats alone.
A horse should not be skinny in the winter. In fact, I like to see them with some extra fat to help keep them warmer.
Cold winters can be very stressful on horses and a good supplement will go a long way toward helping to relieve it. The stress of winter can deplete their bodies of some vital minerals that need to be replaced for the horse to stay healthy. Another thing to keep in mind is that winter places additional stress on already sore joints with frozen, hard ground that can create greater concussion concerns. Hoof growth tends to slow down in the winter, which offers a perfect opportunity to rebuild those shelly walls and weak or broken-up feet with a suitable hoof supplement.
There are all kinds of supplements being sold today with all kinds of claims of effectiveness. I am not an expert in equine supplements, but have found a few in my experience that help horses to maintain and promote a healthy body and healthier hooves.
The best ones contain biotin, which has an important role in building strong feet. While approximately 15 milligrams a day is an ideal dose for most horses, the dosage depends on weight, so be sure to check the amount provided in the supplement.
Patrick Ards operates Clearhills Farrier Services in Grande Prairie, Alberta.
Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine).
Like many significant achievements, Absorbine® grew out of humble beginnings—and through the tenacity of someone willing to question the status quo. In this case, it was a young woman in late 19th-century Massachusetts: Mary Ida Young. Her husband, Wilbur Fenelon Young, was an enterprising piano deliveryman who relied on the couple’s team of horses to make deliveries throughout the Northeast. Inspired by Mary Ida and Wilbur’s vision, Absorbine® has continued to add innovative products throughout the years — products used every day by horse owners around the world. Which is why, since 1892, we’ve been The Horse World’s Most Trusted Name®.
Click here to read Part 2 of the March 1, 2016 installment: Are there any ingredients that should not be fed to horses with hoof concerns?