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.

This edition is sponsored by the W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine) of East Longmeadow, Mass.

Q: Are there any general equine nutrition guidelines in regard to hoof growth and hoof quality I can share with a new horse owner?

By Dr. Jim Ward

Your footcare clients need to practice the basics to keep their horse’s hooves healthy. A balanced diet, regular hoof care and a consistent living environment are all your horse needs for perfect hooves. If they notice cracks or can’t seem to keep shoes on a horse, it’s time to make sure they are covering the basics.

 It’s pretty simple. It gets complicated when people try to fabricate their horse’s diet themselves. We spend a lot of money on research. Why try to reinvent the wheel?”

Possible causes of weak hooves include a hoof that is out of balance, not disinfecting stalls, feeding excess amounts of sweet feed, over deworming and not rotating dewormers and a lack of/or insufficient amounts of iodine, copper, salt and other vitamins and minerals

Here are some general guidelines for balancing a horse’s diet:

  • For light exercise, follow a 60:40 hay/grain ratio.
  • For moderate exercise, follow a 50:50 hay/grain ratio.
  • For intense exercise, follow a 40:60 hay/grain ratio.

Here are a few general equine nutrition guidelines that your footcare clients need to consider for hoof care:

  1. Do not feed bran (wheat, rice, oats or other grain brans) if a horse experiences hoof problems. Bran contains phytate, which is high in phosphorus. Phosphorus causes calcium deficiencies by blocking its absorption into the small intestine. Calcium is necessary for strong hooves.
  2. An “easy keeper” horse can founder from overeating concentrates or consuming lush pasture. Foundered horses should be supplemented with L-tyrosine and iodine to furnish the essential building blocks for producing thyroid hormones.
  3. Be sure a horse’s diet is balanced for calcium and phosphorus. Make sure the horse is receiving adequate levels of protein (10% to 12% for the average adult horse).
  4. Feed according to age, amount of work and body condition.

A horse should not be given more than one supplement at a time without consulting with a veterinarian. Getting too much of certain nutrients can be toxic in some instances.

This item is condensed from an article on hoof nutrition in the American Quarter Horse Journal. Dr. Jim Ward, a 1965 graduate of Texas A&M University, is an equine management consultant for Cargill Inc. He is a member of the Cargill product development team and the Cargill equine enterprise team. He serves in a consultative and management role at Center Ranch, a cutting horse and cattle ranch located in Centerville, Texas.


Click here to read Part 2 of the August 15, 2017 installment: How does nutritional balance affect hoof quality?

Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.