Many aspects of equine health and nutrition require extra attention over the summer months. Hoof health is especially important to uphold when the weather is warm and the ground may be harder than other times of the year. The age old saying, “no hoof, no horse” is especially true and the following recommendations should be helpful for keeping hooves as healthy as possible during this time.
Regardless of whether your horse is shod or remains barefoot, prevention is always better than cure when it comes to hoof health. Regular inspection of hooves by cleaning them, picking them out and examining them for cracks, bruises and any further damage is important. Using a quality hoof oil can be highly beneficial for preventing hooves from becoming too dry and brittle in the warmer weather. If paddocks have become particularly dry at a fast rate it is important to monitor hooves for abscesses, which can occur from mud entering cracks and becoming trapped when the hoof hardens. The bacteria in the mud can cause painful infections, which can make the horse lame for some time if not treated by a veterinarian or experienced farrier.
Investing in a reliable, trustworthy farrier is an important part of maintaining hoof health, as regular trimming of feet can also help to identify any problem areas and prevent cracks that can lead to hoof abscesses if left untreated. Often hooves can grow faster with the warmer weather and it is therefore worthwhile to stay on top of regular trimming to keep them at an acceptable length. Shod horses may require re-shoeing more frequently in summer to avoid hooves becoming too long, resulting in losing shoes that can sometimes be expensive to replace.
Providing a balanced diet that includes all trace minerals and vitamins is important for every horse. The specific nutrients that are required for optimum hoof health include biotin, zinc and methionine. Zinc plays an important role in the health and integrity of skin and hooves, however studies have shown that feeding zinc at higher levels than requirements has little effect on hoof quality. Biotin is the most common nutrient supplemented for hoof health. While there have been some studies that have successfully shown a difference in hoof health in horses supplemented with biotin, it is generally more effective when supplemented in combination with zinc and methionine.
In the case of a horse with consistent hoof problems such as cracks, abscesses or brittle hooves, additional supplementation with a hoof supplement that contains these three nutrients can be beneficial. Considering the horse takes 6 to 9 months to grow a new hoof, it is important to be patient with any hoof supplementation and allow significant time to see a difference in hoof quality.
For assistance with feeding plans to enhance hoof health and quality, consult with an experienced equine nutrition advisor.
Article supplied by Luisa Wood, Equine Nutritionist.