Nutrition and Management for Horse Hoof Health
Every rider has heard the saying “no hoof, no horse.” But many don’t know that there are four key areas that can influence their horse’s hoof health.
1. Regular, professional maintenance
In the artificial environments we provide, horses simply can’t maintain their hooves as they would in their natural environment, and poorly maintained hooves can have far-reaching effects. A long, unbalanced hoof will negatively impact your horse’s way of going, putting undue strain on the joints, tendons, and ligaments of the entire limb. So it’s important to think of hoof care as a major part of your horse’s overall health and well-being — after all, it’s called “horse shoeing,” not “hoof shoeing,” for a reason!
Whether your horse is barefoot or shod, working with a knowledgeable hoof care professional is essential to maintaining healthy, well-balanced hooves. And like most things in your horse’s life, consistency is key. That’s why the first step to supporting optimal hoof health is finding a hoof care professional you trust, setting up a regular maintenance schedule, and sticking to it!
2. Environmental management
Between the barn, the pasture, the ring, and the trails, you’d be surprised at how many times your horse’s hooves go from wet to dry and dry to wet every day. Unfortunately, frequent, shifts from one environment to the other can cause the hoof wall to rapidly expand and contract, which may lead to cracks and other structural problems.
In order to help your horse put his best foot forward, try to limit changes in moisture level as much as possible. For additional support, try a topical that actually helps stabilize moisture levels in the hoof, like Keratex Hoof Hardener or Keratex Hoof Gel. Learn more about the wet-to-dry shifts your horse goes through every day at SmartPak.com/HoofDay.
You probably know that turnout and exercise have many benefits for your horse, but did you know that one of the benefits is supporting hoof health? Your horse’s hoof surrounds, protects, and supports bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, nerves, and an intricate vascular network. These vascular pathways — composed of arteries, veins, and capillaries — function as a key element in maintaining the health of the foot. That’s because the strength of the equine foot depends on nourishment provided by good circulation and vascularity. By supporting healthy circulation, you’re ensuring nutrient rich blood is pumping throughout the foot.
But how do you support healthy circulation? That’s where exercise and activity come in! In order to promote good blood flow, the frog and the entire solar surface of the foot need to be engaged— in other words, your horse needs to get moving! Research shows horses in nature graze and move for approximately 17 hours per day, but modern horsekeeping often results in much less activity than that. Maximizing your horse’s turnout time and space is a great first step, but if time and/or space are limited — or your horse is a lazy pasture puff — consider looking for opportunities to up his exercise, including lunging, hot-walking, or trail riding.
4. Proper nutrition
Nutrition is another area of hoof health that can’t be ignored. Proper nutrition plays a vital role in helping your horse maintain healthy, resilient hooves, which is why daily support from a supplement is a smart way to support healthy hooves all year long. Research has shown that supplementing with 10–30 mg of biotin per day may help promote growth rate and quality hoof wall.
In addition to biotin, look for supplements that provide the amino acids critical to hoof health. Lysine, methionine, and threonine — which play a vital role in the formation of hoof structures — are essential amino acids, meaning that your horse can’t make them on his own and needs to get them from his diet. Minerals like copper
and zinc have also been shown to support healthy hoof growth and help keep hooves strong.
Lastly, remember how in step 3 we talked about the importance of healthy circulation? Well, you can support circulation from the inside, too! Look for a supplement that has ingredients to support blood flow and vascularity, like the amino acid arginine, and antioxidants like vitamin C to support tissue health.
Top picks for healthy hooves
Your Goal: Support normal circulation in horses with poor hoof growth and/or heel soreness
SmartHoof® Circulate Pellets
Your Goal: Provide basic support for maintaining healthy hooves
Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength – maintenance level
Your Goal: Provide aggressive support for weak, cracking hooves
SmartHoof® Ultra Pellets
Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength – replenishment level