Quality Hooves Start with Quality Balanced Nutrition
Good hoof quality is a constant need for today’s horse and horse owner. Along with quality farrier work, proper nutrition can play a huge role in developing sound and strong hooves.
Before getting into the specifics of nutrition’s role in hoof growth, a key thing to be aware of is that it takes 6-12 months after a dietary change to notice the results of that change in the hoof. Since the hoof grows from the coronet band down, it takes new growth at the coronet six months to reach the ground at the heel and 12 months at the toe. So be patient, making nutritional adjustments to improve the quality of the hoof is not an overnight fix.
Nutrients of the hoof
There is a great deal of misconception about which nutrients improve hoof quality and growth. This information in Table 1 is a list of nutrients that are found inside the horse’s hoof in the order they are found, from most to least. Therefore, whenever a hoof-quality problem arises and you think it may be nutrition induced, you should begin evaluating the first nutrient and work your way down to number 10. A deficiency in any of these top 10 nutrients can cause a weakening of the hoof structure and can affect the quality and strength of the hoof wall.
Table 1: NUTRIENTS FOUND INSIDE THE HORSE’S HOOF from high to low
- Protein/Amino Acids (94%)
- Fat/Oils (3%)
- Carotene (Vitamin A)
- Alpha-Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
As you can see, Protein/Amino Acids (such as Methionine) and oil make up 97% of the hoof’s structure; therefore, these nutrients are critical to ensuring proper hoof growth. Biotin, which gets a great deal of publicity when it comes to hoof growth, is one of the top 10 nutrients, but is ranked in 10th place, with nine other nutrients having larger factors on hoof quality than biotin.
Because the old adage “No Hoof, No Horse” is so true, making sure the diet is balanced to ensure quality hoof growth is important. Shotgun methods of throwing one “popular” nutrient at the problem without addressing the other critical hoof nutrients will lead to limited success. Patience and proper nutritional balance are key to improving the quality of your horse’s hooves.