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Good nutrition is the key to healthy hooves

Poor-quality hooves could be an indication of other problems.

By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. | 26-Mar-11

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Horse hoovesHooves are made of a hard, crusty protein called keratin. You cannot add keratin by painting it on – it is produced by specialized cells within the hooves called keratinocytes, which rely on a nutrient-rich blood supply.

Key nutrients for hoof health include omega-3 fatty acids, quality protein, minerals (including copper, zinc, and silicon), beta carotene (which is used to make vitamin A), and the old standby – biotin (approximately 20 mg per day).

It’s important to realize that hooves are low on your horse’s list of priorities. Available nutrients will first be used for survival – feeding vital organs (heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, glands). If nutrients remain, they can be used to feed hoof tissue. Therefore, unhealthy hooves are an indication that there just aren’t enough nutrients to go around. A forage-based diet, with proper vitamin/mineral supplementation to fill in nutritional gaps, will help ensure overall health, while protecting your horse’s feet.

Looking for more advice on optimal nutrition for your horse? At horse owners and managers will find a library of helpful articles, an online store, and a calendar of appearances, teleconferences and interviews. Dr. Getty also offers a popular (and free) monthly e-newsletter, “Forage for Thought”; sign up through the website.

Further Reading
Eight Hoof Care Myths
Guide to Horse Hoof Problems

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jai    new york, NY

3/29/2011 2:24:21 PM

Beta carotene is antioxidant supplements, known as a 'pro-vitamin,' which is a precursor to vitamins. Rather than being a vitamin itself, it converts to significant amounts Vitamin A when absorbed in the human bloodstream. Another benefit beta carotene provides is that it's an antioxidant, a powerful substance that is used to fight the effect of the free radicals in the bloodstream. Free radicals are those rogue molecules that oxidize the blood in the same way the rust corrodes metal, and they are especially dangerous for your heart's arteries, good n natural beta carotene

Cindy    Rockford, IL

3/27/2011 9:19:35 AM

I just bought some Farnam Horseshoer's Secret to see how well it works. I'll know in about a month or so. I should probably do some more reading on this. I want to keep his hooves healthy!

Dorothy    Kansas, KS

3/27/2011 9:09:44 AM

Biotin is a nutrient that's great for keeping hooves healthy.

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

3/26/2011 11:22:05 PM

Great article.

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