HHH: Learn how to identify a healthy hoof by:
- square alignment while standing; even movement on all four hooves while in a trot
- a clean and healthy coronet band
- size and shape similarity in all 4 hooves and frogs
- a hoof that naturally sheds dirt and mud
- a barley visible vertical striping with a natural glossy shine
- a rubbery frog, twice as long as it is wide
- a concave sole that makes a connection to the shoe or ground at the hoof wall
HHH: Red flags that indicate compromised horn include:
Cracks, especially vertical, spreading deep ridges; loose nails, tender spots, moisture or dryness, soft spots, discharge, ?heat,? an unpleasant smell, redness, swelling abscess, bruising, and signs of injury.
HHH: Horn quality can be improved with time, nutrition, and regular hoof care. It takes six months to a year for a new hoof to fully grow. Approximately four weeks are needed to thicken the layer just inside the hoof wall. Complete supplemental support may reveal some positive upper hoof changes within 6-8 weeks; although it takes 16 weeks to a year to achieve real benefit. Depending on the strength of the horn wall, hoof growth requires scheduled shoeing by a professional farrier every 4-6 weeks. Additionally, a horse whose feet are well cared for is much less likely to go lame under the strain of regular work.
- Four Hoofs by Equilite ( www.equilite.com 1-800-942-LITE) is an excellent source for proper hoof nutritional support.
HHH: Lack of circulation to the lower limbs is a primary contributing factor to hoof problems. Little muscle tissue and minimal blood flow in the hoof area reflect slow healing and difficulty in dissipating inflammation. A stressful lifestyle, confinement on a hard surface, and improperly shod hooves all contribute to brittle, unhealthy hooves. Seasonal changes, especially extreme conditions resulting in sudden blood vessel contraction are all characterized by unhealthy hooves. Small-footed horses have less area to distribute stress and weight and therefore place more pressure on the navicular bone.
- Magnetic Therapy and Acupressure will increase circulation to the hoof.
- Peripheral circulation can be supported by rosehips, rue and maritime pine.
HHH: Brittleness and other hoof problems are due, in part, to a nutrient-poor diet. The last 6 months of limited nutrition or poorly digested feed will show up in the hoof as sand cracks and ridges, etc. A fungal infection and system illness will also contribute to dry hooves. An abundance of the wrong bacteria in the gut will result in toxic acid buildup and ammonia, which also contributes to brittle hooves. The periople, a waterproof protective covering of the hoof wall that minimizes moisture loss, is removed by the farrier. Hoof oils and conditioners support this loss. Seasons affect nutritional requirements needed by your horse as well.
- Silver Lining's #12 Feet Relief is formulated to put back the nutrition depleted from the horse's feet. www.silverliningherbs.com 1-866-543-6956, or contact Lynda Nesbitt at 1-800-615-3451, 508-867-5290, firstname.lastname@example.org .
- A natural hoof oil preparation may include linseed oil, aloe vera, arnica, rosemary, wintergreen, white willow, equisetum, comfrey, kelp, and Bach Flower Rescue Remedy.
HHH: Proper digestion and absorption of key ingredients ensures hoof quality. Include acidolphilus and digestive enzymes in the diet to assist in utilization and digestion of feed and supplements.
- Enzymedica's Digest Gold supports nutrient assimilation 1-888-918-1118
- ABC's N.O.M.S. Natural Occurring Mineral Sources provides dried lactobacillus Acidophilus. 1-800-373-5971, www.a-b-c-plus.com .
HHH: Keratin is the primary protein in the 93% protein composition of the hoof. Zinc, a co-enzyme, is an essential component in protein production, and is necessary in your horse?s diet. The quantity and quality of amino acids consumed by your horse affects both hoof growth and hardness. Keratin is a highly stable, disulfide (two sulfur atoms) bond containing fibrous protein exhibited as hard keratin, like the hoof (and hair), or soft keratin such as skin. The term keratin comes from the Greek word keratos, which means ?horn.? Keratin contains a large amount of the amino acid cystine.
HHH: The amino acid methionine provides sulfur which acts as the glue to hold keratin strands together. Methionine is also needed to produce cystine in keratin. Horses cannot directly digest cystine. Methionine works synergistically with biotin. There is no known way to tell if your horse is deficient in methionine or biotin unless you feed these supplements and determine beneficial results over time.
- ABC provides a pelleted complete HOOF supplement. 1-800-373-5971 www.a-b-c-plus.com
HHH: The B complex vitamin biotin produces keratin in the cells. Even if methionine is present, hoof growth progresses slowly if biotin is insufficient. The biotin is important because of its role in converting carbohydrates to protein (and vice versa), as well as in the metabolism of fatty acids. Much of the horn?s raw material needs are derived from a good supply of fatty acids.
HHH: Skin produces glands and keratinized structures including the hoof. Skin, the largest organ of the horse, is a mirror which reflects your horse's external environment and exposures. It is also a reflection of your horse's internal homeostasis. Skin varies among breeds, among individuals within a breed, from areas on the body, and in accordance with sex and age. Skin layers are thicker at junctions such as above the hoof wall at the coronary band.
HHH: Strong-footed parents produce offspring with strong horn. Encoded multiple gene families play a critical role in coordinating balance and development of normal healthy hoof horn. Descendents from bloodlines bred for hoof health, and breeds noted for sound feet, maximize the opportunity for strong healthy hooves!
HHH: Seaweed is an excellent source of rich micronutrients needed to support trace mineral deficiencies reflected by poor hoof quality . Seek seaweed such as Source's Focus HF, www.4source.com 1-800-232-2365. All seaweeds are not alike; avoid high iodine content in some kelp (especially Laminariaceae).
- Consider ABC's Kelp Seaweed or Blue Green Algae 1-800-373-5971 www.a-b-c-plus.com
HHH: Existing horn quality can only be affected by moisture to retain strength and integrity. It is impossible to increase the tensile strength beyond that which the horn started with. AVOID turpentine & acetones. Petroleum can clog skin around the coronary band. Proper remoisturization of hooves can be treated with Grape Seed extract. See www.thenaturalhorsevet.net/ 1-877-873-8838
HHH: Non-strenuous exercise is the only horn growth stimulation support. The safest stimulation of horn growth is through natural turnout which encourages hoof-wall production. Don't bring on lameness by over-exertion. Realistically, growth can only be enhanced by a month, at best.
HHH: Sound hoof horn is ensured by good genetics, regular farrier care, and well digested, properly absorbed nutrition. Consider genetic predisposition when selecting a horse. Maintain regular farrier visits by a professional. Feed good quality complete nutrition including protein, especially keratin and methionine, zinc, biotin, fatty acids, seaweeds, vitamins, micro/macronutrients and electrolytes. Support gut health and avoid stressful surroundings.
Shari Frederick, BS, NMD, LE, a nutritional educator, assists horseowners in making healthier, more natural choices in horse care. She is an advocate of natural prevention and support for overall health, healing and stronger immune systems for both humans and animals. Shari is an independent author, international lecturer and self-styled naturalist. She is also a staunch supporter of "Truth in Labeling" for ALL manufacturers. Contact Shari at Shari@ktc.com and reference Holistic Horse in the subject line.