Hoof Nutrition Intelligence 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: What do hoof rings and hoof ridges reveal about a horse’s nutrition?

By Catherine Whitehouse

A: Just as coat condition serves as an indication of health status in horses, changes in the hooves may provide clues to a horse’s well being.

Since the hoof wall is subject to any number of imperfections, it is common for horses to develop shallow or deep cracks, chipped toes or flares. These symptoms occur frequently, especially if horses are not under the scheduled care of a professional farrier. While these flaws are obvious, more subtle changes in the hoof wall, including horizontal rings and ridges, tell more about a horse’s health than the regularity of hoof care.

Hoof rings and ridges sound synonymous, but they are not. In fact, one is a normal feature of even the best-managed hooves while the other is a sign of pathology and potential toxicity.

Hoof rings, also called growth rings, occur in healthy hooves and are typically the result of variations in diet from season-to-season, especially in horses consuming primarily forage diets. As the nutrient content of grass swells in the growing season, shifts in cellular production often cause distinct changes in the hoof wall, most notably slight color variations. The wall remains smooth with little or no palpable change in texture.

On the other hand, hoof ridges are usually indicative of a body-wide health insult, particularly one that causes fever, such as a bout with laminitis or nutrient toxicity. Like hoof rings, hoof ridges are plainly visible.

However, one important difference is the formation of well-defined bumps or ledges on the hoof wall. Horses with chronic laminitis may have repeated disturbances in hoof wall growth, causing these ridges to take on a V-like appearance toward the toe.

Without question, a competent farrier is the go-to professional for hoof care, and a veterinarian for disease processes that could lead to certain hoof problems. Since laminitis-prone horses can benefit from specialized nutrition, a nutritionist can design diets that will help horses sidestep this disease.

Catherine Whitehouse is a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research in Versailles, Ky. 

Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine). 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 April 1, 2016 installment: An American Farriers Journal article dealt with why prevention is the best way for handling laminitis concerns. I’d like to add a few nutrition ideas that have worked for me in trying to prevent laminitis.

Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.