Category: Horse Health
Kate Hore RNutr(Animal). Senior Nutritionist at NAF
The days are getting and longer and Spring is mercifully with us. Now is the time that many of our clients are looking at their horse’s hooves afresh for the season. For many winter is a time of fewer available riding hours, and it’s only now they’re looking to get horses fit for the season ahead. Has the winter taken it’s toll, and if so what can we do to counteract that?
We know that seasonality can impact on hoof integrity and, in many ways, particularly winter. The hoof capsule is richly supplied with blood vessels, who’s job it is to supply the nutrients for hoof integrity. However as the horse doesn’t have muscles in his lower leg or hoof, those vessels rely on movement to efficiently pump blood to the hooves, and clear waste products away. This movement may be reduced over winter, as many horses spend longer stabled combined with reduced work.
Additionally we may see nutritional stresses over winter impacting on seasonal hoof strength. Sulphur is a key constituent of keratin, so one of the most important nutrients for hooves. MSM is a rich natural source of sulphur, and found in fresh pasture, however it is unstable and rapidly lost from preserved forage, such as hay and haylage. Therefore the winter diet is likely to be low in natural MSM.
We should also consider the environmental issues that winter can impose on hoof hygiene and strength. Whether that’s long periods of time spent on drying, abrasive surfaces like shavings a sand schools, or conversely, long periods of time standing in water clogged paddocks, winter can be a trying time. However when the right farriery care, combines with the right nutritional and management approaches, we can help ensure hooves stay strong and sound.
A good quality hoof supplement can be very useful, but ensure that what you’re advising contains all the key elements. Biotin is important, and make sure you look for a good daily level at least 25mg daily for improvement, and 15mg daily for maintenance. However for best results that supplement should also include sulphur in the form of amino acids and MSM, zinc and manganese, and antioxidants, such as Vitamin E or C with natural antioxidants like rosehip and turmeric.
Where environmental pressures are evident, appropriate applications are recommended. For infections like thrush, zinc sulphate is well known, and is licensed in agriculture for the control of foot rot, which is similarly caused through infection of the sole by anaerobic bacteria. A topical application of a sulphur rich compound, such as MSM, may support the action of zinc sulphate in maintaining a clean, fresh, protected sole and frog. Particular care should be taken to ensure that any application gets well into the central and collateral grooves of the frog, and into any splits or extended nail holes, where microbial growth can proliferate.
Whether looking at nutritional or application requirements, or a combination of both, a little patience will be required to see results. Taking a digital photo at each visit is a great way of demonstrating the change, and improving client compliance. With a great farrier working together with the right nutritional tools and applications, we can ensure we stamp out bad feet to deliver strong healthy hooves, not just for Spring but right through the coming season.
This article has been written and supplied by NAF, our thanks to them -