“No foot, no horse” – make sure this does not apply to your horses, get advice on caring for your horses hooves.
“No foot, no horse” is an old adage, that is still as true as ever. As hooves are continuously growing at a rate of 6-10mm per month, it is also true that hoof health is a reflection of a horse’s overall health. In addition factors such as nutrition, farrier care, environmental conditions, exercise and genetics, also affect hoof growth and hoof quality.
Horse owners will be well aware, that some horses suffer from slow growing hooves or poor hoof quality problems, such as; crumbly, white horn, brittle hooves and hoof cracks. While often these conditions require specialist farrier attention, specific nutritional supplementation with a product such as Foran Equine Hoof Aid, can also benefit hoof quality long term.
Biotin is one of the most recognisable additives to hoof supplements. Biotin has many important functions in the body, and its role in hoof strength is related to its function in cell growth and division. Several scientific studies support the use of biotin (a B vitamin) at rates of 15-20mg per horse per day to improve hoof strength and quality. Some studies have also reported biotin to increase hoof growth in young horses.
Further nutrients, zinc and methionine are also commonly provided in hoof supplements, as they are essential to hoof strength. Zinc is a mineral necessary for keratin production. Keratin is a strong protein which makes up the main tissue in hooves. Low blood zinc levels have been associated with poor hoof horn quality. Methionine is one of the essential amino acids required by horses, which means it cannot be made by the body and must be taken in through dietary sources. In hoof growth methionine is converted to cysteine, and research has shown that there is a direct correlation between the amount of cysteine contained in a hoof and the hardness of that hoof.
Choosing a quality balanced hoof supplement containing all of the nutrients mentioned above, will ensure optimal results. Specialised products such as Hoof Aid, are available in both small and large packs to suit different requirements. The key however, to hoof supplementation is long term use. The benefits to improved hoof quality take 4-6 months to become evident, as supplementation only benefits new hoof growth. Supplementation should continue for 9-12 months and beyond where necessary.
Thrush is a relatively common condition during the winter months, as many horses are stabled and underfoot conditions can be poor. Thrush is a fungal infection of the hoof sulci (grooves either side of frog), it most commonly affects hind feet. Thrush can be recognised by its foul odour and dark sticky debris present in the sulci. Generally thrush is not a major problem for horses, however, it can be associated with feet tenderness and in severe cases cause lameness.
Treatment of thrush is best conducted in conjunction with your farrier. The farrier will trim the dead tissue as much as possible, eliminating a lot of the infection. This should be followed-up with daily cleaning of the feet and application of a topical disinfectant such as, Foran’s Strong Iodine Solution 10%, for 2-4 weeks until the condition resolves.
Optimum hoof health in horses can be achieved by the combination of good horse husbandry, appropriate nutrition and routine farrier attention.