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Growing Quality Hooves

Updated: Mar 14

This is a season where hooves are growing, but horse owners are not necessarily seeing quality hooves, even though they are growing rapidly.

How can you improve the quality of the hoof your horse is growing?

Hoof walls are made from protein. Specifically, they are made from keratin, which in turn is mostly a combination of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs).

Sufficient minerals are also critical for quality hoof growth. This season, while I am seeing fast growing hooves, I would venture that a lot of the horses are mineral deficient. Owners are not needing to feed their horses, because pasture is abundant, and therefore they are not being supplemented minerals that are insufficient in pasture alone.

While horses generally have good cover or are even overweight, symptoms of mineral deficiency are beginning to show, like poor hoof quality, skin rashes like Itch, or greasy heel, washed-out rusty coats, gunky eyes, runny noses, spookiness etc.

On the mineral end, a balanced diet with adequate levels of especially calcium, zinc, copper and selenium is important to support hoof health and growth. High dietary and/or water levels of iron, manganese or sulfate can interfere with copper and zinc absorption. Zinc is especially important for both growth and strength of walls and connections. Both zinc and copper are critical to strong immune defenses in the softer tissues of the hoof as well as enzymes which provide antioxidant protection for the hoof.

Dr Kellon

To grow a good quality hoof we need to provide our horses with all the building blocks in the diet.

Many studies have proven that biotin improves the quality of hoof growth. I have included some links below if you would like to know more. Biotin supplementation improves hoof growth across species and also improves hair and nail growth in humans. Biotin is a B vitamin required for the synthesis of keratin so that makes sense.

Biotin and minerals required for quality hoof growth are easy to supplement. Sound Advice has a supplement that we call Biotin Trace Mix. It is our trace mineral mix - copper, zinc and iodine - in a biotin base. It is the most palatable of all the trace mixes, so it is great for fussy eaters, including thoroughbreds, which is the breed we most often see with cracked and flakey hooves. This is not a coincidence. We designed Biotin Trace 10 years ago specifically for TB clients who would not eat our regular Trace Mix. Because it contains not just biotin but optimum doses of trace minerals, over time you should see a reduction in other symptoms of mineral deficiencies mentioned above.

We sell Biotin Trace in 3kg pouches for $30/kg, which is very competitive. The daily dose is 60g. This means one bag lasts around one trim cycle, which is also not a coincidence!

Happily, poor hoof quality is a problem that is relatively easy to solve by supporting your horse nutritionally, with regular trims and good husbandry.

Sources: The long-term influence of biotin supplementation on hoof horn quality in horses Effect of supplementary dietary biotin on hoof growth and hoof growth rate in ponies: a controlled trial A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair

Ablon Glynis, MD, FAAD


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