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  • June 20, 2024 4 min read

    The Implications of Excess Dietary Supplementation on Horse Hoof Health

    As horse owners we want the best for our horse, and will often throw in a supplement into their diet because of what it claims to do. But, seldom do we ensure that our horse’s diet is balanced every time we introduce, or take out, a supplement or feed type. In many cases, the horse’s hoof presents tell-tale signs of over or under supplementation and can be a very good indicator of whether the diet for your horse is working for your horse. In this article we explore why excessive supplementation can be detrimental to your horse, leading to poor hoof condition and other health issues. 

    The Role of Nutrition in Hoof Health

    Horse hoof health relies on a balanced intake of nutrients, including proteins, vitamins and minerals. The key nutrients that are directly related to strong hoof quality include:

    - Biotin: Essential for keratin production, biotin is critical for strong, resilient hooves.

    - Methionine and Lysine: These amino acids are fundamental for protein synthesis, crucial for hoof horn formation.

    - Zinc: Important for keratin synthesis and overall hoof strength.

    - Copper: Plays a role in the formation of cross-links in keratin, enhancing hoof hardness.

    - Calcium and Phosphorus: Necessary for bone health and proper hoof structure.

    - Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: Promote elasticity and moisture retention in the hoof wall.

    When these nutrients are supplied in appropriate amounts, they contribute to the development and maintenance of healthy hooves. It is important to note that over supplementation of the abovementioned minerals willvery rarely cause toxicity to the horse. However, over supplementation may hurt your hip pocket!

    If your horse is showing signs of weakened hooves, such as being cracked or brittle, then a specific hoof supplement may prove beneficial. Further, hoof supplements are often designed to be fed alongside complete feeds, however it is always best practice to ensure that your diet is balanced when introducing a new supplement. We will provide our list of specific hoof supplements further in the article.

    When does Excessive Supplementation Matter?

    Horses that are fed a diet high in grain and carbohydrates, generally excessive to their energy requirements, may exhibit changes to their hoof quality. The presence of high levels of starch and sugar in a horse’s diet may place the horse at risk of laminitis, which directly affects the health of the horse’s hoof.

    Over supplementation of the mineral selenium will also cause changes to the hoof. Selenium is an essential mineral that horse’s require in their diet, but if it is given in excess, it can cause major issues for the horse. Selenium can be found naturally in grass, and so hay grown in selenium rich soil will have a higher selenium content compared to grass that is not. The problem lies however when horses are directly supplemented with selenium, and receive forage from a low selenium area. However, if new forage is introduced from a selenium rich area, and the selenium supplement is not adjusted, then excessive selenium intake can occur. This is why, whenever a new feed be it hay, a supplement or feed is introduced into a horse’s diet, then the diet must be reviewed and adjusted accordingly. 

    Signs of selenium toxicity can include lameness, hoof defects and poor hoof wall structure, horizontal hoof wall ridges, cracks, crusty coronet band, and a hoof wall invaded by bacteria or fungi. 

    Take Away Message

    A horse’s hoof quality can be a sign that their diet is adequate for their needs, and can also be a sign that something may be missing. Before adding supplements to your horse’s diet, you will need to have an understanding of the vitamins, minerals, protein and digestible energy that your horse is receiving. Only once you have this understanding, should a new supplement be added to your horse’s diet. This is to ensure one, that the diet remains well balanced for your horse and avoids over supplementation, which can lead to toxicity, and two, so that you aren’t spending excess funds on a supplement or feed you simply do not need. 

    To ensure that your horse receives a balanced diet, you will need to follow the NRC 2007 Nutrient Requirements of Horses, which is the most up to date nutritional guidelines for horses. Horse owners are able to do this via a DIY approach in which programs can be purchased to ensure diets are balanced, and many feed companies nowadays are also offering free diet reports, but note that it will only include their brand of feed. For a more comprehensive and independent approach, horse owners can consult a qualified equine nutritionist, or their vet.

    What Happens If Your Horse Needs A Hoof Supplement?

    Luckily, there are many high quality hoof supplements available on the market, and many are readily available in our store. Our list of best selling hoof supplements include:

    The abovementioned list in a compilation of our best sellers. If you are looking for something specific, please contact us either online or in-store, as we will try to source the product for you. And, to view our whole range of hoof supplements, simply visit us in-store or online!


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