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: How do I know hoof supplements contain the correct levels of the essential vitamins, amino acids and minerals?

By Bryan Waldridge, DVM

Key nutrients in hoof supplements include the vitamin biotin, the amino acids methionine and lysine, and the minerals zinc and copper. Scientific studies have clearly shown the benefits of biotin supplementation, and it is routinely advised to offer 15–20 mg of biotin per day for 6 to 9 months to improve hoof health.

Although some studies support biotin supplementation, research on other ingredients commonly included in hoof supplements is needed. It is important that owners realize dietary supplements are not a quick fix, and imbalances in the mineral content of a horse’s diet can wreck havoc on hooves.

Selenium is one mineral that must be carefully scrutinized. Too little selenium can result in signs of deficiency (white muscle disease), whereas too much can cause signs of toxicity, such as a poor hair coat and white line disease.

The problem is the safety margin between too much and too little is much smaller for selenium than other minerals. As such, it is easy to run into problems balancing dietary selenium levels.

To maximize hoof health, the overall diet, environment and genetics of the horse must be considered, including the following:

  • Providing adequate energy, but avoiding overconsumption of concentrates or lush pastures to cause laminitis (especially in easy keepers or those with insulin resistance or equine metabolic syndrome).
  • Analyzing forage and scrutinizing all nutritional supplements offered to avoid over-supplementation and ensure a quality product is being offered.
  • Providing routine farriery to catch hoof problems early and ensure deleterious mechanical stress — secondary to underrun heels or long toes, for example — are corrected quickly.
  • Offering daily exercise or turnout to promote blood flow to the feet.

Bryan Waldridge is the head veterinarian for Kentucky Equine Research. Located in Versailles, Ky., the international research, consulting and product development company works in the areas of equine nutrition and sports nutrition.


Click here to read Part 1 of the September 15, 2017 installment: I have a horse that is susceptible to laminitis, and understand the concerns with spring grazing, but do I need to worry about fall grazing?

Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.