We all know the expression ‘no hoof, no horse’, poor hoof quality is a complaint of many horse owners, especially for those of the thoroughbred kind. There are many different factors that can affect healthy hoof growth, for example, genetics, environment, farriery and nutrition. Hoof health products are plentiful in the horse health trade, it is however important to make sure that the horse is receiving a correct and balanced diet before considering supplementation, as part of an equine care regime. If lacking the right nutrient balance the horse’s body will utilise nutrients for other needs of maintenance and growth in the body.
Lacking the correct nutrients the hoof tends to have slower growth. This can result in cracking, splitting and difficulty holding a shoe. Healthy hooves of an adult horse can grow up to as much as 10mm per month. As the hoof naturally wears away or is trimmed away it has to be constantly replaced, and horse health care products can help the hoof to grow back out healthy and strong.
There are certain nutritional components that can promote healthy hoof growth in the horse, these being Protein, Vitamins and Minerals. Essential nutrients must be present in the appropriate amounts so as not to compromise the growth of healthy hooves.
Equine health is at the top of horse people’s agenda and to promote horse hoof health it’s important to know this horse health fact, namely that the hoof itself is made up of mainly protein. This protein is called Keratin, which consists of a chain of amino acids. These essential amino acids are cysteine, cystine and methionine. Cysteine and Methionine play a role in hoof formation. They contain sulfur which helps form amino acid chains that contribute to hoof formation. The more chains present the stronger the hoof formation, absence of key proteins leads to weak hooves.
Biotin is the main component for the growth of healthy hooves. Biotin is a B complex vitamin, found is most horse care products that encourage hoof growth and serves an integral part in the health of all connective tissue. Like all B vitamins, biotin in water soluble, therefore the body uses what is needed, any extra is excreted in the urine. This makes biotin toxicity difficult to come by. Significant hoof growth has been shown in horses fed up to 20mg of biotin per day. The horse’s hind gut is where biotin is produced by bacteria, provided good grass is part of a balanced diet. Biotin deficiency has been linked to weak and cracking hooves, as well as deformities such as low heels.
When evaluating an equine health care problem such as weak hooves minerals are an important factor to consider. Zinc being the main trace mineral when referring to horse hooves. Zinc is essential for hooves, skin, hair and immune support. It has been said that a majority of equine diets are zinc deficient. When feeding zinc it’s paramount to feed the correct ratios of zinc and copper for efficient absorption. If selecting an equine product for hoof growth it is essential that it contains copper along with zinc in the ingredients. Zinc is a necessary component in the horse’s diet for keratin formation and minimising a great deal of abscesses in the hoof.
The correct use of equine health supplements can replenish what is needed for healthy hoof growth. Supplementation is not an immediate fix and a correct diet is essential in your horse health care regime. It is not possible to repair cracks through supplementation, only encourage better growth from the coronary band down.