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Are White Hooves Weaker Than Black Hooves?

One common misconception in equine care is the belief that white hooves are weaker than black hooves. 

It’s often thought that horses with white hooves are more prone to problems such as cracks, chips, and other hoof-related issues. However, this belief is largely based on anecdotal evidence. Basically, you can see the flaws in a white hoof, whereas it is harder to see changes in colour from incidences of laminitis or bruises in a black hoof. What about a stripy hoof? Are the black parts harder than the white parts? No. 

The only difference between white hooves and dark or black hooves is pigment. The pigment-producing cells, known as melanocytes, are present on the surface of hooves. These cells have nothing to do with the structural integrity of the foot.

Genetics, conditions, husbandry and nutrition play a much greater role.

Various studies have looked at whether white hooves are weaker than black hooves, testing aspects such as abrasion resistance, hoof wall elasticity and rigidity, water content, chemical makeup and more. The consensus? No significant difference was found between dark and light hooves.

One of the primary factors that influences hoof hardness is moisture content, which will vary from one day to the next on all hooves, not just the white ones. As a hoof care practitioner for over 20 years, I am happy to take appointments when it's raining. Why? Wet hooves are much softer and easier to trim than harder hooves after a period of dry weather. 

Here is a study from 1987 that looks at the 'stiffness' of hooves at different hydration levels.

(In short, hoof wall is more pliable when it's hydrated.)

This before / after plainly illustrates how diet can influence hoof health. A hoof wall takes about a year to grow from the coronet band down to the sole plane. If you feed your horse the necessary building blocks to grow quality hoof, you will see new healthy hooves forming before your eyes.

Here is a study from 2021 that looks at which minerals hooves are made from. These minerals have to come from the diet. Where else is is the horse going to get minerals from but ingestion?

With regard to microminerals, Zn (zinc) and Cu (copper) are also important for improving hoof quality. That is why equine hoof characteristics such as its tensile strength, wear, and integrity, are associated with the chemical composition of the hoof and clearly depends on dietary nutrients.

There are abundant studies on the usefulness of biotin for hoof growth and hardness. This study from 2004 is one of the easier to read that looks at hoof maintenance in domestic species.

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Nutrition also plays a key role in hoof health and maintaining proper growth rate. By keeping an animal well fed with the proper nutrients such as zinc and biotin, it is much more likely that they will produce good-quality hoof horn and have stronger feet.

At 30g per day, a 3kg bag is 100 days supply. 

Are you paying more than $30/kg for your hoof supplement? Why? 

What do I do while I'm waiting for a new hoof to grow?

We have 3 'go to' products that we use in our hoof care business. We make these by-hand here in the Hunter Valley using our own tried-and-tested formulas. We have made them with easy application in mind, because we wanted our clients to use them!

Improving hoof health is easy. Feed them right, commit to regular trims and use topical treatments to attend to hoof health issues while you're growing quality hoof.

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