Ask Your Veterinarian: How Much Can Diet Really Improve Hooves?

QUESTION: “I’ve got a horse in training with shelly feet. How much can I reasonably improve his hoof quality with a change in feed or supplements?”

DR. CRAIG LESSER: When approaching a horse with shelly feet it is important to consider a variety of factors including environment, workload, conformation, poor shoeing/shallow nailing and overall health of the horse. While many of these factors are difficult to change, nutrition is something that can be easily modified.

Inconsistency in feed and pasture are often seen in a horse’s hoof by looking closely at the growth rings. The story of a horse’s nutritional history is printed in these growth rings and during times of stress or insult major deviations will develop.

Hoof supplements are usually recommended when a horse sustains an injury to the hoof or has a poor quality hoof wall. However, there are a lot of different products on the market making incredible claims of efficacy, and deciding which to use can be daunting.

When picking a hoof supplement, it is important to find one that complements your horse’s diet. Most complete feeds already have the correct balance of the vitamins and minerals that a horse needs. When additional vitamins and minerals are added this balance can be disrupted, and in some cases toxicity can result, leading to deterioration of hoof wall quality.

Biotin is one of the few nutritional factors that has been statistically proven to help with hoof wall quality and growth rate. One study showed horses supplemented with biotin had a 15 percent higher growth rate than horses on maintenance feed alone. Biotin is also a very safe supplement as it is water soluble and excess is safely excreted through urine.

Keratin is the building block of quality hooves and hair. Omega fatty acids have been proven to increase quality of hair in both humans and horses and therefore should be considered when a horse has poor hoof wall quality. These fatty acids aid in healthy hoof growth by decreasing inflammation and moistening the hoof horn.

Hoof supplements aren’t a miracle cure, and they take time to be effective. In some horses results can be seen in a few months. Your farrier will likely be the first person to notice a change in hoof wall quality while they are trimming and shoeing your horse. It can also be beneficial to take photos of your horse’s hooves to see if there is an appreciable change over a longer period of time. During this process it is important to follow manufacturer’s feeding instructions and not change supplements.

Dr. Craig Lesser graduated from Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2015. Following the completion of an internship at Anoka Equine, he moved to Lexington to complete a podiatry fellowship at Rood and Riddle and has continued there as an associate.

The post Ask Your Veterinarian: How Much Can Diet Really Improve Hooves? appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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