Louise Jones BSc, MSc, R.Nutr, CONNOLLY’S RED MILLS
UK Head of Equine
The condition of a horse’s coat, skin and hooves are a reflection of overall health. Dry, lacklustre, ‘starey’ coats or brittle, cracked hooves can be a result of nutritional issues such as deficiencies in amino acids or inadequate vitamin and mineral intakes.
Hair, skin and hoof is made from keratin, a structural protein made up of a chain of amino acids. The sequence of these amino acids determines whether the keratin has ‘hard’ (i.e. hooves and hair) or ‘soft’ (i.e. skin) properties. Both non-essential and essential amino acids (e.g. lysine and methionine) are important, however, the latter cannot be synthesised in the body and thus must be provided in the diet.
Vitamin and minerals also play an important role in coat and hoof condition. Deficiencies in B-vitamins (e.g. biotin) can cause the hooves to weaken, whilst low levels of dietary minerals, such as zinc and copper, can slow hair growth and affect hair pigmentation. If coat is a concern the addition of a copper supplement such Foran Equine Coppervit can be immensely beneficial. Likewise, if you have a yearling that you expect to show frequently, or exercise a lot, the addition of a hoof supplement to the diet prior to and during their prep period can significantly benefit hoof condition. Foran Equine Hoof Aid Powder and Liquid contains biotin, zinc and methionine to help optimise hoof development.
Supplementing the diet with additional oil is also recommended when preparing young horses for sale. Oil improves the condition of the skin, coat and hooves, helps to decrease the risk of impactions in the gut and provides additional calories. Oil also provides the horse with omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acid, both of which play essential roles in the body. During sales preparation access to pasture is often significantly reduced and the quantity of hard feed given increased, this can lead to the diet becoming high in omega 6 fatty acids and comparatively low in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids not only aid coat condition but also act as natural anti-inflammatory; supplementation has been reported to help reduce joint inflammation. Therefore adding an omega 3 rich linseed/ flaxseed oil to the diet is recommended.
The best way to provide the nutrients needed for a sleek, shiny coat and healthy hooves is to feed a well-balanced hard feed. Connolly’s RED MILLS Prep Mix and Premier Yearling Cubes have been specifically formulated to provide elevated levels of essential amino acids, high levels of oil and the unique RED MILLS Pro Balance vitamin and mineral package containing over 20 important vitamins and trace minerals. The addition of emulsified flaxseed oil (e.g. Foran Equine Kentucky Karron Oil) and, if needed a copper supplement or hoof supplement, will further help to promote coat and hoof condition.
The nutritional team at Connolly’s RED MILLS and Foran Equine are on-hand to provide on-going support and guidance in the nutritional management of youngstock during sales prep.