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Optimum nutrition for a horse includes high-quality hay (and pasture, if available), nutrients like vitamins and minerals to meet his daily nutritional requirements, and calories to maintain his body condition. For active horses, both nutrients and calories may come in the form of fortified grain. For less active horses or “easy keepers,” a forage-balancer or multi-vitamin/mineral supplement may be more appropriate. For some horses, this formula may be enough. However, because of genetics, location, type of use and other factors, other horses may need additional supplementation to grow a healthy hoof. Independent university research has shown that a supplement containing biotin, lysine, methionine, Vitamin C, zinc, copper and other nutrients improved both the quantity and quality of hoof growth in horses with a variety of hoof defects.
To improve the quality of hooves from the outside, make sure the environment is “hoof friendly,” that is, consistent and gentle. Experts believe a constantly changing environment may be worse than one that has too much moisture or not enough so avoid going from wet to dry to wet conditions. Don’t give your horse a full bath if a sponge-off will do, don’t allow him to stand in mud, and don’t let his stall become wet with urine and manure. For some horses or some situations, additional help in the way of topical hoof products may be necessary. Ask your farrier and veterinarian for their advice, but in general avoid pertroleum or tar-based products or ones that contain anything you wouldn’t put on your own skin. Lanolin-based products or hoof sealants won’t damage the hoof and may help create a barrier to unavoidable changes in moisture.
Hooves are the foundation for everything we do with our horses. Learn to speak the language of the hoof, build a caring and competent farrier/veterinary team, and do your part to develop a strong, sound foot through nutrition and consistent care.