Horse Journal OnCall: Nutrition and Healthy Hooves

Barefoot horses, especially, need optimal hoof care (these heels are too low) and nutritional support.

I am feeding two new horses who have thin walls and soles. My other seven horses have rock-hard bare feet. I’m wondering if my feeding regime is correct for what the new horses need produce better hooves or if I need to change it.

Kaycee is an 11 year-old Quarter Horse mare in excellent weight with a super shiny show coat. She gets1 cup of Triple Crown 30% supplement and grass/grass mix hay in the morning. In the evening, she gets 1 cup of Triple Crown 30% supplement, 1 scoop MSM, 1 scoop Source, 1/2 cup OmegaHorse Shine, 1/2 of a quart of soaked alfalfa pellets, plus excellent quality grass hay. 

Dixie is a four-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB).She gets 1 cup of Triple Crown 30 supplement, 1 quart scoop of Hallway Fibrenergy (beet pulp/chaff hay, 12% protein, 12% fat, 20% fiber), 1/2 quart scoop of soaked alfalfa pellets, 1/2 cup OmegaHorse Shine, 1 dose probiotics (just switched to this from vanilla yogurt), 1 MSM, 1 Source, 1/4 cup Rice Bran Oil (any than more than that and she gets the runs), 1 cup Aloe Vera Juice. She gets this 2x a day with plenty of grass pasture during the day and plenty of excellent grass hay at night. I’ve tried feeding her more of her “grain” at each feeding, but she doesn’t finish it if I do. She’s a good eater otherwise. She’s thin, but slowly putting on weight. 

My question is this a good nutrition plan? Should I add Farrier’s Formula to that? 

Juliet Getty, Ph.D., Getty Equine Nutrition, responds: 

Hello Tracie, 

There are several considerations when working toward improving hoof health. The first is enough biotin. Most hoof preparations include 20 mg, but I’ve fed 40 mg with success. Biotin alone, however, will not be sufficient. Trace minerals such as copper, zinc, and manganese need to be sufficient, as well as be in balance with each other and with iron. Forage (hay and/or pasture) generally contains plenty of iron; but in many cases, the iron level is too high, potentially interfering with the absorption of these other minerals.

Protein quality is also critical to hoof repair, especially inclusion of amino acids, lysine, methionine, and threonine. You are doing a good job of mixing your protein sources through the addition of flax, beet pulp, and alfalfa. These will offer your horse a good amino acid pool from which to choose in order to repair and synthesis tissue.

Triple Crown 30% provides many necessary vitamins and minerals, while offering optimal quantities of copper, zinc, and manganese. However, to achieve these levels, I recommend increasing it to 1 lb. per day (approximately four 8-ounce cups). Some hoof supplements, such as Farrier’s Formula, provide copper and zinc, but leave out manganese.

It is always beneficial to test the mineral content of your hay to make sure that the overall diet does not contain too much iron relative to zinc. The iron to zinc ratio should not exceed 4:1. And there should be approximately 3 times more zinc than copper. Manganese and zinc should be close in quantity.

By balancing these trace minerals, providing quality protein, and enough biotin (I recommend 40 mg), you should start to see new, healthy hoof growth.

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