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: There seems to be very little discussion about the role of sulfur in a horse’s diet. Does it affect hoof growth and quality?
By Karen Briggs
While most horse folks don’t think of sulfur as an important mineral, it’s an essential consistent source of methionine and cysteine amino acids, as well as the biotin and thiamin B vitamins. It is also important in a number of other important molecules such as insulin, heparin (an anti-coagulant) and chondroitin sulfate, a critical component of cartilage, bone, tendon and blood vessels.
The concentration of sulfur in the body is highest in the hooves and hair, which both contain the protein keratin (4% sulfur). Overall, sulfur normally makes up about 0.15% of the horse’s total body weight.
Despite its importance, exact sulfur requirements for the horse have not been determined. Most equine feeds contain about 0.15% organic sulfur, which seems to be enough to meet a horse’s daily requirement. The horse does not readily absorb inorganic sulfur but organic (bound into amino acids) is absorbed, such as the familiar supplement MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).
Sulfur deficiencies have not been reported in horses, although in other animal species it has led to decreased appetite, growth and milk production. No side effects have been noted from high sulfur intake, as the mineral is easily excreted in the urine and feces.
Karen Briggs is an equine nutritionist located in Ontario and is a Canadian Equestrian Federation certified riding instructor and has managed several horse farms and riding schools.
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 August 1, 2017 installment: How critical is water intake on these hot summer days?