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HOOFCARE

Hoof supplements Proper nutrition can play an important role in healthy hoof growth. Alongside external treatments, specially designed hoof supplements can provide additional, internal, support, particularly to those horses suffering from or most at risk of dry and brittle hooves. Equestrian Business Monthly highlights some of the ingredients found within these supplements and how they can be used to help.

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Biotin is found in most dietary hoof supplements, as this watersoluble B-vitamin activates production of keratin, which is the main structural protein of the hoof. If keratin production is limited, this can result in thin hoof walls and soles, cracked and brittle hooves and disrupted growth, and studies have shown that feeding biotin daily over a longer period of time can improve the quality of poor and brittle hooves. Biotin is synthesised by bacteria in the horse’s gut, and as most healthy horses produce all the biotin they require, a biotin-only supplement may not be the answer unless the horse has a digestive complaint. Another ingredient sometimes included in hoof supplements is Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a safe and natural organic compound. MSM is a very bio-available (easily absorbed) source of sulphur, which is required for a number of functions in the body, including the formation of protein and connective tissue. Sulphur was traditionally included in the horse’s natural diet of varied grazing, but the levels in grass today have been depleted due to modern land management techniques. MSM is also often included in joint supplements to reduce inflammation and enhance circulation. As proteins are made up of chains of amino acids, a deficiency in one or more of these can also cause hoof problems. For this reason, amino acids such as tyrosine, phenylalanine, threonine and particularly the sulphur containing methionine and cysteine are often incorporated into these types of supplement. Cysteine is vital a for healthy hoof wall. Zinc and copper are also key to supporting keratin and connective tissue production and strength, as well as providing antioxidant properties. Horses with suffering white line disease or thrush may have a deficiency in these trace minerals, which create cracks in the hoof allowing entrance to bacteria or weakens the frog. Those fed predominantly on forage may be more at risk, as zinc and copper are often deficient in grass and hays. As these two minerals compete for the same absorption sites, it is important to keep the ratio within the diet in check. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, helps with collagen formation. Collagen is present in all structures of the body, such as skin, hooves, tendons and ligaments, and is an important part of keeping limbs and organs in good condition. Vitamin C also helps the horse fight off infection and is a good source of antioxidant. Phospholipids and omega fatty acids meanwhile enable the hoof wall to keep moisture balance in check and maintain pliability. Oils such as soya, liseed and hemp are great sources of omegas 3 and 6, which also help give shine to the coat, and indeed many of the nutrients that benefit hoof health will also help to maintain a healthy coat and skin.

Image courtesy of Trelawne Equine 27

July 2011  
July 2011  

July 2011 issue featuring Summer Horse haelth including supplments, grooming, hoof care, etc. Business feature is on building a website