Ten Equine Nutrition Tips

by Bob Peacock

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1. DL-methionine is the most important amino acid for hoof growth. It helps prevent edema and infection, and it works with choline to fight against tumors. Biotin is the second-most important nutrient in hoof growth and repair. It helps alleviate eczema and dermatitis through utilization of proteins. Other important nutrients that affect hoof growth and quality are vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, lysine, selenium and zinc. They are frequently lacking in the equine diet. It is prudent to monitor their use. If after six to eight months on a balanced ration with extra vitamin A, vitamin E, selenium and biotin, the horse's hooves are not in good condition, then it may pay to use a multiple supplement such as Nu-Foot. As the role of nutrition in the horse is explored, we must take special care in evaluating each horse as an individual.

2. The critical results of nutrition problems a farrier sees are cracking of the wall, scaly, dry hooves, hollow wall and hoof wall infection, commonly known as "white line disease." Look for the cause of the sheared or cracked wall; this is generally caused by an out-of- balance condition. If the horse's coat is dull and hair is not uniform, the horse will generally have a deficiency in its diet or may be overwashed with a detergent that is reacting on its skin. This is generally the owner's or the trainer's responsibility.

3. For horses with weak, crumbly hooves, a hoof supplement should be used which includes:

Vitamin A - promotes tissue growth, strong bones and hoof, healthy skin, hair, teeth and gums. Also helps build resistance to disease.

Vitamin D - helps properly utilize vitamin A, calcium and phosphorus, necessary for strong bones, teeth, and the hoof.

Vitamin E - helps to retard cellular aging, as an antioxidant. Supplies oxygen to the cells for better endurance. Helps fight fatigue, accelerates healing and growth.

4. The horse owner is the most important player in insuring that the horse has healthy hooves. The owner needs to know that the diet being fed to the horse is having a positive effect on its feet, skin, mane, tail and general health. This matter should be approached carefully so as to not offend anyone. The owner or trainer who generally plays the role of the nutritionist should look to the veterinarian for advice in these matters. Common sense is in order. More is not always bettter.

5. Before recommending a hoof supplement, it should be observed that the horse is best kept on clean, dry footing. Then the horse's diet can be evaluated to see if it is getting a balanced ration, including all essential amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals.

We must take special care in evaluating each horse as an individual. Its environment, age, temperament and exercise program as well as the available feeds can all be considered when we work to improve hoof growth and quality.

6. The conditions under which a farrier will be using a hoof dressing is strictly his decision for each horse. Most dressings are cosmetic, some are medicated and others are debatable. A good, all-around supplement is generally self-sustaining and does not need a topical dressing to enhance its natural growth or appearance.

7. The breed of the horse is of prime importance as is its use, age, sex, stabling and weight. All these factors must be considered with regard to supplements adequate enough to provide a healthy hoof. Hoof conditions that need increased hoof growth are laminitis, cracks, abscess, white line or hoof disease, trimmed too short, hoof and leg imbalance.

8. You should always read the label for ingredients, directions and, most of all, what is offered per ounce and how many ounces are required. Then compare ingredients and cost per day to other supplements.

9. Many nutrients that affect hoof growth and quality (such as vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, lysine, selenium and zinc) are frequently lacking in the horse's diet. Just making sure the horse has free access to a loose salt/mineral/vitamin mix containing calcium and phosphorous will prevent most deficiencies. With the recent increase in hoof wall diseases, other additives are used, such as choline. Choline helps eliminate poisons from the system through the liver and helps nerve responses to aid the healing.

Note: It has been discovered that 10 mg. of iodine can be used to stop the spread of fungus and some dreaded bacteria and viruses in the hoof and skin. Certain amounts work through the thyroid gland to produce bacterial antibodies needed for good health.

10. In conclusion, if it is working, don't fix it. Don't play doctor with a customer's horse and become the horse's worst nightmare. Leave the unknown to others. Follow manufacturer's directions when adding supplements to a horse's diet. It may be a balance and alignment problem. Most importantly, when evaluating the horse's immune system, consider the effects of conformation, balance, alignment, activity level, environment, stress, and the effects of drugs. Most of all, let us work together for the benefit of our friend, the horse.

Thank you. - Bob Peacock

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