Did you know your horse’s diet can greatly impact the health of his hooves?
It’s even been said that the feet serve as a window to a horse’s overall health; they can tell us a lot about what’s going on inside the body. Of course, diet alone won’t make up for bad trimming or shoeing practices, and weather has some effect on the hooves as well, but wall cracks, weak or brittle hoof walls, and even thrush can all be signs that something is amiss in the diet.
Let’s start with ingredients that could be adversely affecting your horse’s hoof health. This would include high NSC (non-structural carbohydrate) grass which will most likely be present in lush spring and summer pastures. However, it also includes overgrazed or drought-stressed pastures. Sweet feeds of any kind and all grains will also be higher in NSC’s and should be avoided in most instances.
Commercial supplements with added iron (such as blood building supplements) should also be eliminated from the diet. High amounts of iron are known to block absorption of other important trace minerals, and horses get plenty of iron in grass and hay anyway.
Make sure your horse is getting a sufficient amount of protein. The hoof wall is made up of mostly proteins (amino acids), and while some are produced in the horse’s body, others must be supplied in the diet. These are known as essential amino acids. Two which are key to hoof health are lysine and methionine. If your horse has good quality pasture or hay, they will likely meet protein needs. Sometimes, supplementing concentrates is necessary though—especially for horses in hard work.
For horses who don’t have access to fresh grass, omega-3’s such as ground flaxseed are good to add. The B vitamin, biotin is also often supplemented to improve hoof health.
Trace minerals are often deficient in the diet, and two which are critical for hoof health are zinc and copper. Selenium is another important trace mineral (and is often paired with vitamin E for immune function) but it’s important to know that selenium has a very low toxicity level. Even at very low levels, this trace mineral can be poisonous, leading to mane and tail loss and even hoof separation at the coronary band.
For horse owners who have paid strict attention to diet and whose horses are still experiencing hoof problems, detoxification may be needed in order to see results. Heavy metals and other toxins can build up in the system, leading to poor absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Our Bentonite Clay (also known as Montmorillonite clay) not only has powerful detoxification properties, it also contains over 70 trace minerals and is beneficial for maintaining hoof health.
One thing to remember is that there are often no quick fixes for unhealthy hooves. Even with proper diet and hoof care, it may take six months to a year to see results. The important thing is to stick with it. Your horse’s health is worth it!