Spring Hoof Health


The old saying ‘no foot, no horse’ is so true. Keeping the hoof healthy can go a long way to preventing lameness but this constant wet weather we have been seeing can be a real challenge for the hoof.

There are many factors that affect hoof growth, some of which such as age, breed and genetics are out of our control. We have talked about the effect persistent wet ground has on feet and the increased risk of thrush, in a previous blog. Here we will focus on nutrition, which is a key element in producing good horn quality, hoof strength and growth.


Nutrition for Hoof Health

The basic equine diet needs to be balanced, if this isn’t right the overall health of the horse, as well as the hoof will suffer. The horse is designed to have a forage-based diet. Concentrates can then be added based on the life stage and work level of the individual. If concentrate intakes are lower than manufacturers recommendations, the diet may be marginal or even deficient in key micronutrients. This can be corrected by adding in a broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement such as Every Day Vitamin and Mineral Supplement, Multi Vit treats or balancer.

Then on top of this balanced diet, targeted nutritional support such as a hoof supplement can be added if required.

What ingredients should you be looking for in a hoof supplement?

Vitamins - Biotin
Biotin is the most researched of all the hoof supplement ingredients and the recommended serving rate is 15-20mg per day of biotin for the average 500kg horse, in hoof specific supplements. Research studies have found increased hoof hardness, increased hoof growth rates, reduced severity of horn defects and improved condition of the white line.

Minerals -Zinc, Copper and Calcium

Copper and zinc intake can be very variable in equine diets, therefore supplementing these trace elements will be beneficial if the diet is deficient. Most of the UK forage is known to be low in copper and zinc, so many horses will be marginal in their zinc and copper intake and may benefit from supplementation, particularly if they are in hard work.

Research studies have found:

  • More white line disease in horses fed long-term diets low in zinc and copper.
  • Faster growth rates in horses supplemented with zinc and copper.
  • Lower hoof zinc levels in horses with poor horn quality when compared to normal feet.

Calcium may only be found in low levels in the hoof wall, but it is still important in maintaining structural integrity and strength of the hoof. If calcium levels in the diet are low, then supplying extra calcium may be beneficial for hoof quality as well as bone health and muscle function.

Protein, Amino Acids and Sulphur

Most commercial hoof supplements contain methionine (an amino acid, the building blocks of protein) but methionine is just one of the amino acids contained in the protein of the hoof, and deficiencies in any essential amino acid (one that must be provided in the horse’s diet) can be detrimental to hoof horn quality.

Sulphur is an important mineral for healthy hooves as it is a component of collagen and the highest concentration of sulphur in the horse’s body is found in hoof horn due to its role in keratin. Methionine is a sulphur containing amino acid, and MSM is another bioavailable source of sulphur.

Support for the Anti-Inflammatory Processes and Antioxidants

Linseed (aka flaxseed) and fish oils are useful sources of omega 3 fatty acids, which are known to provide anti-inflammatory support and are important for overall health and wellbeing, including supporting hoof health.

Antioxidants mop up harmful free radicals and prevent oxidative stress and damage to cells. Vitamin E, Vitamin C, melon pulp, grape extract, milk thistle, rosemary and marshmallow are all potent antioxidants.

Probiotics and Yeasts

The gut microbiome is recognised as playing an important role in overall health and wellbeing, including hoof health, which can be supported with live probiotics (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). A disturbed gut microbiome can release toxins which can lead to laminitis.

Brewers Yeast is an inactive yeast, not a live probiotic, but it can provide a natural source of B vitamins, which play key roles in hoof, skin and coat health.

How long do you need to feed a hoof supplement for to see results?

Hoof supplements need to be fed for a minimum of 9 months (often longer) to see the full results, as it takes approximately 9 to 12 months for the average hoof to grow all the way down to the toe from the coronary band. You may notice an improvement in the coat more quickly though.

What else can you look for in a supplement?

  1. Clear labelling and transparency in ingredients, you want to know exactly what you are feeding your horse in each and every serve! At Equine America we make it easy for you with a table of key ingredients for all our supplements on our website, and if you want to know more you only have to ask!
  2. Look for quality credentials to help reassure you that they meet the highest quality standards in both feed safety and the control of contaminants. For example the UFAS scheme and BETA-NOPS accreditation mean stringent quality management procedures are in place and the company is regularly audited to ensure compliance. BETA-NOPS certification also offers reassurance for those competing under rules (e.g. Rules of Racing and FEI) that they are compliant.
  3. Watch out for wild and ‘too good to be true’ claims on nutritional supplements, such as treating, curing or preventing a disease or injury. Not only are these in breach of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate regulations, but they are also misleading and untruthful.
  4. Sustainability and ethical considerations goes deeper than just packaging, and includes how and where the ingredients are sourced.

As always, if you need further advice and help choosing a suitable supplement for your horse, pony or donkey, please contact our technical helpline to speak to our qualified and experienced nutritionists and Vets: info@equine-america.co.uk or 01403 255809.