There’s a lot of truth to the old saying “A down horse is a dead horse,” as a horses’ hooves play a crucial role in mobility and overall well-being. Without proper hoof health a horse can’t have proper support for balance, movement, and day to day task. Just as healthy skin and nails are indicators of good nutrition and health in us, hooves are the same in horses. A horse with dry, brittle hooves could need a better diet or supplementation. Today we will outline the indicators of healthy hooves, and what supplements you should look for when supporting strong healthy hooves.
Indicators of Healthy Hooves
The hoof wall, the most outer part of the hoof that is visible to us, is essentially a giant nail. You want this hoof wall to be shiny, free of cracks, and most importantly strong and thick since this is the protective shell for the more sensitive parts of the hoof. Like fingernails, hooves are constantly growing and require maintenance from a farrier. Farrier visits are important as they make sure a hoof is structurally sound. Here are some indicators that your horse’s hoof is structurally sound.
- Levelness & Balance: After trimming a horse’s hoof should be completely leveled to the floor. Any imbalance hear could lead to problems down the road.
- Hoof Symmetry: Your horses front hooves and back pairs should form symmetrical pairs. This is because the front and back are responsible to carrying different amounts of weight. Front hooves carry around 60% of the horse’s total weight compared to the back.
- Shoe Fit: Horseshoes are shaped by farriers to match the unique shape of every horse’s hoof. Shoes should be completely flat against the hoof; they should also avoid contact with the frog. You would like your shoes to fit properly, as do your horses, this is the protection and support they have to be standing on all day.
- Hoof Pulse: did you know your horse’s hoof has a pulse? Place your hand on your horse’s ankle, you should feel a faint slow pulse.
- Hoof Temperature: Healthy horse hooves should have a constant temperature throughout all for hooves.
- Hoof Feel: A healthy hoof should feel smooth and its normal for it to have a few ridges. These ridges are signs of changes in hoof growth. For example, if your horse has recently undergone a diet change, this could affect hoof growth and will be shown in these ridges. Constant hoof supplementation could avoid changes in hoof growth keeping it steady and consistent.
Supporting Healthy Hooves with Nutrition
Nutrition plays an important role in all aspects of your horse’s health, including their hooves. Their diet plays a crucial role on the quality, strength, and thickness of their hoof. Specific nutrients are required to maintain healthy hooves. Hooves are essentially made up of various proteins, if he right nutrients aren’t available, they become brittle and chip. As mentioned before hoof ridges can form from changes in hoof growth; providing a hoof supplement can ensure their hooves are always staying sound regardless of changes in diet. Here are some essential ingredients to take into consideration when picking out a supplement:
- Biotin: Biotin is perhaps one on the most important vitamins needed for hoof health. Biotin acts as a coenzyme to many metabolic reactions throughout the body, including the production of keratin, the main protein that forms hooves. It has been proven to be effective at restoring hoof walls and improving elasticity and strength.
- Zinc: Zinc is an essential micromineral ; it is part of over 200 different enzyme systems that aid in metabolism of fats, carbs, and proteins. Zinc is a part of keratin synthesis and is important to proper bone development and maintaining healthy hooves.
- Gut Health: Another factor to take into consideration when looking at hoof health is gut health. Many overlook this very important aspect of overall animal health. The gut microbiome is responsible for producing B vitamins that are an essential part of healthy blood flow and hoof health. A healthy gut is also responsible for proper nutrient absorption, if an animal’s gut is unbalanced the utilization of nutrients is reduced, leading to numerous health concerns.
Your horse relies on its hooves for proper leg function and stability. Use the above tips to identify the health of your horses’ hooves. Making sure his hooves are sound and healthy will in return give you a happy, healthy horse. When considering supplementation, remember what you feed today will dictate hoof health down the road. Supplements containing the above ingredients will give the best results and performance.