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Feeding for healthy hooves


There’s nothing more frustrating than having to interrupt your training regime with time off due to poor quality hooves resulting in shoe loss. Some horses seem to be particularly prone to this due to a number of factors including poor conformation and nutrition.

It’s all about balance

Key nutrients for improving hoof quality include biotin, calcium, methionine and zinc. It is important to ensure that your horse’s ration is balanced before adding specific nutrients for hooves as this may be sufficient to improve hoof quality. However, if you are already feeding the recommended levels of a good quality feed or supplement, adding a specific “hoof” product may be beneficial, especially if your forage is lacking in certain nutrients.

Why are certain nutrients important?

Biotin is a sulphur containing B vitamin essential for cell proliferation and is the most commonly identified nutrient for improving hoof quality. B vitamins are synthesized by micro-organisms in the digestive tract as a by-product of fibre fermentation. If the digestive system is healthy and fed plenty of fibre, it is thought that sufficient biotin is produced to keep most horses hooves healthy. If the supply of fibre is compromised, e.g. for the performance or dieting horse, or the environment of the gut is not conducive to allow bacteria to function efficiently, then the production of B vitamins, including biotin, may be compromised. Supplementing 15mg of biotin daily to a horse is recommended to promote improved hoof horn growth and quality.

Zinc is a well known trace mineral for the integrity of keratin which is found in hair, skin and hooves. Low levels of zinc result in soft, brittle hooves. Look out for feeds and supplements that contain a proportion of chelated zinc as chelating, where the mineral is attached to a protein or a sugar molecule, makes the nutrient easier to absorb in the digestive tract and less vulnerable to interactions with other nutrients.

Calcium is important for hoof quality as it is involved in creating sulphur cross links between hoof proteins and is also important in the cohesion of cells. Researchers at the Royal Dick Vet School investigating the cause of brittle hooves identified two types of defect. The first was remedied by the addition of biotin, but the second did not improve until calcium was added as well. The horses that improved with the addition of calcium were found to have diets with relatively high phosphorus. Calcium is linked very closely with phosphorous and the ratio of these two minerals in the diet is crucial and so adding calcium is likely to have established the right balance. This highlights the importance of a generally balanced diet rather than focusing on specific nutrients in isolation.

Give it time

Whatever methods you employ to try and improve your horse’s hoof quality give it time to work. It takes 6-9 months for a horse’s hooves to grow down and so it may be some time before you notice a difference in you horse’s hoof quality.

Dengie Feeds for Healthy Hooves

Specific products within the Dengie range that will help to balance the ration and include biotin at a level to supply 15mg daily for a horse are as follows: –

Healthy Tummy – for horses in working up to a moderate level or those that need help to maintain their weight. Healthy Tummy combines chopped and pelleted alfalfa with a rapeseed oil coating, herbal blend, vitamins, minerals and protexin in-feed formula.

Healthy Hooves – for horses in light work or those that hold their weight well. Healthy Hooves combines chopped and pelleted alfalfa and straw with a light molasses coating, vitamins, minerals and garlic.

Healthy Hooves Molasses Free – for horses in light work or those that hold their weight well. Healthy Hooves combines chopped and pelleted alfalfa and straw with a light rapeseed oil coating, vitamins, minerals and garlic.

Performance+ Balancer – for working horses and breeding stock. Performance+ Balancer is a pelleted product that not only supplies a broad-spectrum of vitamins and minerals, but glucosamine for joint support and prebiotic for digestive support.

Leisure Balancer – for horses and rest or in light work. Leisure Balancer is a pelleted product that supplies a broad-spectrum of vitamins and minerals.

Performance Vits & Mins– for horses working up to a hard level. Performance Vits & Mins is a powder broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement that also includes live yeast for digestive support.

Leisure Vits & Mins – for horses at rest or in light work. Leisure Vits & Mins is a powder broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement that also includes live yeast for digestive support.